Pop at pill and become fabulous…Wouldn’t it be nice? There’s a reason many supermarkets and drug stores devote an entire aisle to nutritional supplements!
One in three American adults takes at least one dietary supplement each day; we Americans spend more than $11 billion annually on vitamins and minerals.
And even though it is true that most healthy adults can benefit from a multivitamin and one or more single-ingredient supplements, most of us are just guessing about our needs and believing junk that circulates on the web… so here are some simple fiction versus facts for you:
- Myth: Supplements can help prevent or manage conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
Fact: Supplements aren’t intended to treat any specific health issue. They are not medications. They just “fill in the nutritional gaps” in a well-rounded diet, helping us reach our daily nutritional needs that are not met with food alone, like Vitamin D for good example, because it’s not found in many whole foods.
- Myth: Supplements can make up for your diet’s flaws.
Fact: You still need a well-rounded diet. Supplements are tools that you take on top of eating right. When you are healthy and get most of your nutrients from food, you can generally trust your body to absorb what it needs. When you rely on supplements instead, however, you run the risk of taking in too much, which can be harmful to your health; like Vitamin A for example. Too much of it increases your risk of osteoporosis! And by the way, too much vitamin E can elevate your risk of suffering a stroke and too much iron can raise your risk of heart disease. Excesses of these nutrients are stored in fat and are not excreted, so they can build up in the body and become toxic. If you’re already eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and consuming fortified cereal, yogurt, juice or milk, you may not need multivitamins or individual supplements on top of that.
As a side note, did you know that if you don’t take a supplement properly, there’s a good chance your body will simply excrete most of it? And supplements, even taken properly, can’t supply all the benefits of healthy eating. That includes delivering many phytonutrients, the chemicals available in fruits and vegetables , such as resveratrol, flavonoids and carotenoids.
- Myth: The best supplements are those labeled “all natural.”
Fact: The only part of the label that matters is the nutrition facts. Supplement manufacturers are eager to capitalize on heightened consumer interest in natural foods by touting their “all natural” bona fides, such as the addition of ingredients like enzymes or primrose oil. In most instances, though, none of these provide real benefits to the consumer because they’re added in only minute or trace amounts. What you should pay attention to is the nutrition information panel on the label. All of the nutrients contained in a supplement should be listed as providing “around 100 percent, but no more than 300 percent,” of the daily recommended value (DV). Those percentages are generally considered to represent a safe dose.
- Myth: When you hear a nutrient has new proven health benefits, it’s time to stock up.
Fact: The supplement may not be right — or safe — for you. Before investing in a supplement that you hear will fight off one or another chronic condition, talk to your doctor or a dietitian to find out if it’s worth it, especially if you have a medical condition that could be compromised by large doses of certain nutrients. For example, people who take blood thinners or aspirin need to be wary of both vitamin E and omega-3 supplements, which could limit the blood’s ability to clot and increase your risk of bleeding. It’s also wise to factor in the nutrients you’re already getting from foods. For example, it may be unnecessary or even harmful to take a daily multivitamin if your morning bowl of cereal has already been fortified with 100 percent of the daily value of the same vitamins and minerals.
- Myth: Multiple single-source supplements are better than multivitamins.
Fact: For healthy adults, a multivitamin is sufficient (with some exceptions). The vitamin and mineral needs for most adults over 50 can be met with a multivitamin with extra B12, which is beneficial for neurological function and red blood cell formation, and which our bodies tend to absorb less well from foods as we grow older. There are, however, a few exceptions in which a single-source supplement could be beneficial: calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and omega-3. No daily multivitamin will have enough of those ingredients.
There you have it, Barb’s Fit U style!