I’m sure many of you have seen so many headlines out there saying that “vitamins and minerals are a waste of money” and that they have no health benefits. Some even promote the fact that not only do they not work, they may be harmful to you. The truth is, many of these articles are written by doctors who receive little to no class work on the subject of nutrition and dietary supplements and whose idea of physical exercise is pulling out a notepad and pen. Not only are they barely educated on the facts about nutrition and it’s benefits, most articles are based on a mere number of scientific studies which are almost always cherry picked to support their opinions. The simple truth is, doctors are not educated on the topic of nutrition during the duration of their 7-10 year university degree, they only learn about which medicine treats what but they will never tell you how to prevent the disease from even occurring in the first place. The harsh reality is, life is based around money. If the doctors were to tell you about how to prevent a disease, and if you never got sick, would there still be a need for doctors? Most definitely not… so many surgeries would close down and go out of business. Now lets move on, the media is always promoting negatives throughout society and yes we are all influenced by it but why not judge for yourself instead of being a sheep and following the crowd? Look at the evidence and look at the facts, make a judgement for yourself, determine if nutritional supplements truly are good for you. I certainly have and I most certainly have not regretted that. So, to make it easier for you, I’ll help you out. First ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why do we need to supplement?
In reality if we lived in a perfect world with a perfect diet, we probably wouldn’t need to supplement. But the changes that have taken change in the modern world in the last 100 years with commercial agriculture have left us with a scarcity of nutrients in the standard diets. Most of us do not eat a balanced diet that has enough of the required vitamins, mineral, anti-oxidants and plant based nutrients to provide us with protection for long term health. It is so important that we supplement our diets with high quality supplements to protect ourselves. For those of you who have not read my previous article; How much nutrition is actually in our foods? Please glance over it quickly.
TL;DR over the last few decades, we have depleted nutrition levels in our foods due to mass agriculture and processing that we are suffering from multiple micro-nutrient deficiencies which is the genesis of degenerative disease. Depleted topsoil = depleted food = depleted nutrient level in human = degenerative disease = suffering.
Now I’m just going to elaborate a little on our state of agriculture. Our soil has suffered serious erosion from over-cultivation, how we cultivate our crops and how we use high intensity agricultural practices today is much different to how we grew our foods 100 years ago. This process of high yield extraction it virtually depletes the soils. Now when the soils can no longer sustain healthy plant growth, we throw on the nitrate phosphate potassium (NPK) fertilisers that were really left over from the 2nd World War. Although they grow great vegetables, while they look good, they are actually deficient in several micro-nutrients that our body needs. Also when we use the chemical fertilisers, they acidify the soil and make it more susceptible to insect which results in the use of herbicides and pesticides. Combined with the global fast food culture which sells food with high levels of fat, sugar and salt which most definitely isn’t good for us. Along with the paucity of micro-nutrients which are needed for long term health, we are setting ourselves up for degenerative disease. The level of oxidative stress in the body is just incredibly high in those conditions.
2. Is it safe?
The last thing you want to do is take a supplement for the rest of your life and find out it’s harming you. In the 2004 annual report of the American Association of Poison control centres, it has been reported that there have been fewer deaths caused by dietary supplements than by air fresheners. That’s right, air fresheners…
In the USA, there are more people killed every year through accidental deaths by taking prescription drugs than the entire Vietnam War.
In natural health products, this one death was caused by an overdose of iron tablets. The individual was killed by an overload of iron. Over the counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen cause about 16,500 deaths a year and furthermore prescription drugs contribute to about 106,000 deaths a year in the US. From this chart we can see the risk of having a harmful reaction from supplements is much lower than any other drug or painkiller.
The real safety issue is actually how supplements are made. Less than a third of the supplements made in the United States have a level of safety supported with evidence. There is so much contamination, adulteration and mislabeling on the products in not only the US but all over the world. That is why adherence to the pharmaceutical manufacturing practices of pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) are absolutely essential. This is the key to the safety of the product. GMP’s validate all the raw materials that go the product with written records at all phases of production and tests for dissolution, disintegration, stability, shelf life, microbial contamination, identity, purity and potency. These properties are tested over and over and over again to ensure that they are of the highest standard. That is the different between GMP standard products and food grade shelf products. There should be NO SHORTCUTS to your well being.
When a product doesn’t disintegrate, the body can’t absorb it thus it can not use it. This is why disintegration is very important! You only get proper disintegration with products manufactured at pharmaceutical grades. How a product is manufactured is just as important as what is in the product. Pharmaceutical GMP ensures safety and purity. It ensures, what is on the label is actually in the bottle. It is the only way to ensure the quality of a product.
That brings us to our third question:
3. Is it effective?
Heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes are the six major killers. The interesting thing about these are that they are lifestyle related disease which means they are almost entirely preventable with a proper diet. Almost 80% of America’s non-accidental deaths are a result of one of these six diseases. Regardless of which country you live in, the majority of people which die every year are a result of degenerative diseases.
To help you understand the effectiveness of nutrients, we will slightly touch on the Vitamin D and Iodine, both of which are not prevalent in our diets today and how by supplementing with these two nutrients we can avoid the risks of so many diseases including cancers.
Let’s take a closer look at cancer. Over 2,500 studies confirm that Vitamin D is protective against all cancers. With the risk of men with low levels of Vitamin D having triple the risk of men with sufficient vitamin D (Grant, 2006). Also having just 1000IU/day of Vitamin D reduces colorectal cancer risk by 50% (Gorham et al., 2005). Now these adverse effects are not the result of a pharmaceutical drug, it is actually the result of a very inexpensive natural supplement. In addition to these results, a 4 year double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial of post-menopausal women showed that just 1,500mg/day and 1,100 IU of Vitamin D reduced the risk of dying from ALL cancers by more than 65% and concluded that Vitamin D may be the single most effective means of preventing cancer (Lappe et al., 2007). Moving on to breast cancer, the element Iodine kills cancers cells through apoptosis where the cell commits cellular suicide. Breast cancer patients are very deficient in iodine (Smyth, 1993). Iodine inhibits cancer promotion by regulating several genes involved in cell growth (Stoddard et al., 2008). When you supplement with iodine your risk of breast cancer and other breast related diseases reduces substantially. Iodine has been found to inhibit cancer promotion by regulating genes involved in cellular growth and function. This element is extremely important in breast health which I’m sure affects 50% of you readers. Below is an important quote in regards to Iodine taken from the The Journal of Epidemial Community Health (Wiseman, 2000).
“There is a single putative factor protective against breast cancer – one that is fat soluble and diminished by fat intakes – the depletion of which is responsible for the vast majority of cases”
FINEGOLD, J. A., ASARIA, P. & FRANCIS, D. P. 2013. Mortality from ischaemic heart disease by country, region, and age: Statistics from World Health Organisation and United Nations. International journal of cardiology, 168, 934-945.
GORHAM, E. D., GARLAND, C. F., GARLAND, F. C., GRANT, W. B., MOHR, S. B., LIPKIN, M., NEWMARK, H. L., GIOVANNUCCI, E., WEI, M. & HOLICK, M. F. 2005. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 97, 179-94.
GRANT, W. B. 2006. Epidemiology of disease risks in relation to vitamin D insufficiency. Prog Biophys Mol Biol, 92, 65-79.
JEMAL, A., BRAY, F., CENTER, M. M., FERLAY, J., WARD, E. & FORMAN, D. 2011. Global cancer statistics. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 61, 69-90.
LAPPE, J. M., TRAVERS-GUSTAFSON, D., DAVIES, K. M., RECKER, R. R. & HEANEY, R. P. 2007. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 85, 1586-91.
SMYTH, P. P. 1993. Thyroid disease and breast cancer. J Endocrinol Invest, 16, 396-401.
STODDARD, F. R., 2ND, BROOKS, A. D., ESKIN, B. A. & JOHANNES, G. J. 2008. Iodine alters gene expression in the MCF7 breast cancer cell line: evidence for an anti-estrogen effect of iodine. Int J Med Sci, 5, 189-96.
WATSON, W. A., LITOVITZ, T. L., RODGERS, G. C., JR., KLEIN-SCHWARTZ, W., REID, N., YOUNISS, J., FLANAGAN, A. & WRUK, K. M. 2005. 2004 Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System. Am J Emerg Med, 23, 589-666.
WISEMAN, R. A. 2000. Breast cancer hypothesis: a single cause for the majority of cases. J Epidemiol Community Health, 54, 851-8.