The most popular supplements are multivitamins, which were used by 39 percent of U.S. adults in 2006. Some consumers may be viewing supplements as a way to make up for a poor diet, which is not the best approach.
According to CNN:
"While some are helpful, supplements can't entirely replace proper nutrition ... "
Fifty-three percent of Americans now use dietary supplements, an increase of 11 percent in just under two decades, but the question remains, is this trend making people healthier?
In general, it doesn't appear so. Chronic disease rates are rising and the latest study published in Health Affairs revealed that the United States now ranks 49th for male and female life expectancy worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950.
Supplements Cannot Make up for an Unhealthy Lifestyle
It has always been my belief and teaching that supplements are in addition to NOT in place of a good sound diet. You can't cover your nutritional or lifestyle "sins" by taking a handful of supplements. Biology doesn't work that way.
Your biological imperative to achieve good health is to eat the highest quality toxin-free foods you can possibly find or afford. Anything less will increase your risk for weight gain and accelerated aging.
A healthy diet based on food choices that are appropriate for your nutritional type, along with exercise, are the two bedrocks of optimal health. Typically supplements will not work nearly as well if these foundations are not in place, and they will certainly not replace these healthy habits.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that multivitamins are the most popular supplements, taken by 39 percent of U.S. adults no doubt as an "insurance policy" to make up for poor diet.
Taking pro-active steps, including taking a multivitamin to help maintain and boost good health and wellness, is not a bad idea, but if you're taking a synthetic multivitamin (like the majority of those sold at discount stores or large chain stores) you may as well be flushing your money down the toilet.
Why Synthetic and Megadose Vitamins are a Waste of Money
Synthetic alternatives to whole foods are known as "isolates." Your body will only absorb a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals -- and utilize even less (Your body absorbs much more of the whole food form.) On top of that, there may be side effects, depending on the quality of the isolate.
Synthetic nutrients are not natural in that they are never found by themselves in nature. Taking these isolated nutrients regularly, especially at the ultra-high doses found in formulas today, is frequently more like taking a drug.
When you take vitamins or antibiotics that are concentrated above what is found naturally, in nature, your small intestine actually forms defenses against the absorption of these excessively concentrated ingredients.
It does this by creating a biofilm -- a barrier that effectively blocks the absorption of nutrients -- as a form of self defense, if you will.
According to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, who frequently monitors his patients' nutrient levels, oftentimes the more supplements you take the less your body actually absorbs. Further, studies show your body treats these isolated and synthetic nutrients like xenobiotics (foreign substances). This is why your urine will oftentimes turn some shade of glow-in-the-dark yellow when you take synthetic vitamins, as your body is simply flushing these foreign substances out.
So if you choose to take a multivitamin, you'll want to be sure that it is a whole food supplement.
Whole food supplements are what their name suggests: Supplements made from concentrated whole foods. The vitamins found within these supplements are not isolated. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors that work together synergistically, to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body.
Whole Food Nutrition vs. Supplements
Of course I believe in supplements but really only a handful. I far prefer whole food. Let me give you an example.
Many body builders want to gain muscle so they will take branched chain amino acids or glutamine to increase their muscle growth. While that may result in some benefit, it is my strong belief that the risks of isolated amino acid supplements far outweigh the benefits of whole food nutrition. In this case I prefer the use of a high-quality whey supplement.
Whey has all the amino acids in the right ratio to better optimize muscle growth compared to isolated amino acids. Similarly, many take glutathione for anti-aging or for detox and while that is helpful it is not as useful or less expensive than taking a high-quality whey protein
Notice I mention HIGH QUALITY. The reason I do that is that whey protein is processed and the majority of whey protein on the market is not high quality and should be avoided, as it will do more harm than good. Because it is a processed food, one needs to be ultra-careful in the details of the processing. So make sure you do your homework.
Another great example is animal-based omega-3 fats. Ideally the best source would be clean fish. Unfortunately, 20th century industrialization has contaminated virtually all waterways making this very difficult so one needs to rely on supplemental sources. I really don't consider these supplements but a food substitute for fish
Similarly most benefit from eating fermented foods, but if you are unable to do so then a high-quality probiotic becomes an imperative. This is not really a supplement but more of a food.
Be Wary of Supplement Additives
Aside from the issue of synthetic versus whole is the issue of what is added to your supplement aside from the active ingredient. Many supplement makers are adding flowing agents into their capsules, such as magnesium stearate. Previous research has shown that magnesium stearate suppresses your natural killer cells, which are a key component of your immune system.
Magnesium stearate is much like a chalk filler that stimulates your gut to form a biofilm -- a sort of sludge lining -- that acts as an effective barrier to the absorption of not only that particular vitamin but ALL the nutrients you'd normally get from food sources as well!
Which Dietary Supplements Might be Useful?
Vitamin D is the one that most people are deficient on. Ideally one should optimize their levels by safe and appropriate exposure of their skin to UVB, either from the sun or a safe tanning bed.
A poor, but important, second choice would be to take oral vitamin D3. When using oral vitamin D a blood test is important to make sure your levels stay in the optimal range as, unlike sun or a safe tanning bed exposure, your body can't self-regulate oral doses as it really was not designed to get vitamin D this way.
As I mentioned, another incredibly useful supplement is probiotics, which influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.
You can get these healthy bacteria from eating fermented foods, and if you eat them enough you will keep your digestive tract well supplied with good bacteria, but there may still be times when a probiotic supplement is necessary, such as when you stray from your healthy diet and consume excess grains or sugar, if you have to take antibiotics, when traveling to foreign countries or when eating at suspicious restaurants.
I've found that using a high-quality probiotic every 30-60 days will typically help maintain a well-functioning digestive system.
There are other instances when supplements may be useful as well, such as in the case of CoQ10 if you're taking statin drugs, but their effectiveness depends largely on the quality of the supplement itself.
Once you have done that and you are looking for further improvement, odds are you would likely benefit from some supplements, like a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, probiotic, astaxanthin and a whey supplement. There are many others you could consider depending on your specific circumstances, but just about everyone would benefit from these four.
When choosing a supplement, do your homework first and use only those that come from a reputable manufacturer using whole-food, natural ingredients that are free from additives and have gone through a vigorous quality control process.