Do You Really Need Health Supplements?
What nutritionists have said all along is now official. It pays to take health supplements.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has reversed its previous anti- vitamin stand after 20 years, and now encourages adults to take vitamins daily. This was after a study of 38 years of scientific evidence by Harvard researchers Dr Robert Fletcher and Dr Kathleen Fairfield.
In reports published in the June 19 2002 edition of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), they concluded that the modern American diet is enough to prevent deficiency diseases, but not enough to support optimal health.
|“Insufficient vitamin intake is apparently a cause of chronic diseases. Recent evidence has shown that suboptimal levels of vitamins (below standard), even well above those causing deficiency syndromes, are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. A large proportion of the general population is apparently at increased risk for this reason.“|
— Dr Robert Fletcher and Dr Kathleen Fairfield (emphasis mine)
The conclusion is, supplementing with a daily multi-vitamin is important to health, and a wise preventive measure against disease.
Should We Take Vitamins Daily? How Nutritionally Deficient Are We?
In a massive random survey of residents of the United States (one of the wealthiest nations in the world with arguably the best supply and variety of food) it was found that:
- 25 – 50% get less than the RDA of vitamin A
- 25% get less than the RDA of vitamin C
- 80 – 90% get less than the RDA of vitamin E
- 25% get less than the RDA of folic acid
- 50% get less than the RDA of calcium
… and so on.
To compound this problem, not only are we eating nutrient-deficient diets, but it appears that the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) of many nutrients may actually be too low. Many research scientists now believe that RDA levels may have been set at what is necessary to avoid obvious signs of deficiency rather than what is needed for optimum health.
How Important are Vitamins and Health Supplements?
Nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids are vital to life. They help the body carry out its daily functions and are needed in all body processes. When our bodies lack necessary nutrients, harm is caused because its functions are impaired.
The best source of nutrients is, of course, food. The problem is, we don’t get all the nutrition we need from our diet today, due to modern farming methods and nutrient-deficient soils.
Tim Lang, professor at the Centre for Food Policy in London says: “We have to eat eight oranges today to get the same amount of vitamin A our grandparents got from a single orange.”
Then there is the problem of high levels of pollution that places even more stress on our bodies, and busy lifestyles that make it difficult to have a healthy balanced diet. Most of us don’t eat anywhere near the required 5 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily.
Which means there is a definite role for antioxidants, for multi-vitamins and health supplements, in our diet.
This trend is supported by over 30 years of medical research which show that nutritional supplements help to slow down the aging process, rid our body of toxins, strengthen our immune system, stave off disease, and heal chronic health conditions.
Antioxidants, for instance, work by neutralizing free radicals that cause oxidative stress or damage to cells. Cells that are protected from damage are healthy and stay young.
Since our diets likely do not provide all the nutrients we need for optimal health, it pays to take vitamins daily to plug the gaps. Supplements act as an inexpensive insurance against nutritional deficiencies.
Are Vitamin Supplements Beneficial?
The effectiveness of supplements is sometimes questioned, due to poor quality supplements being sold which barely make a difference to health.
A number of supplements are manufactured only to food grade GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). Our best assurance of quality is to start by choosing those made to pharmaceutical or neutraceutical grade GMP.
Also check that your supplements provide you with the right amounts of all the nutrients you need. The easiest way is to get a broad-spectrum supplement that contains the right balance of all those key nutrients, i.e. with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients the body requires, in optimal dosages not exceeding safety limits.
One way to pick a good quality supplement with all the key nutrients in the right balance is to look at the definitive study documented in the book Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, now in its 5th edition.
It lists results of an independent review of most of the popular (1,612 to be exact) broad-spectrum health supplements in the US and Canada, and ranks them on nutritional value. The ratings may surprise — some of the priciest do not rank anywhere near the top, while some inexpensive ones do.