What about vitamins and supplements? Do we need to take them? You may be surprised at the answer!
A study from the American Medical Association tells us that Americans spent almost $35 billion on vitamins and supplements in 2013. There were an estimated 50,000 supplement products to choose from in the 2012 market. People take them and feel in control despite warnings from numerous health care professionals that they are not health promoting. If you do take vitamins and supplements, please tell your medical team about them.
Two decades worth of research, studying over 300,000 people, found that supplements could actually make a person more likely to develop some cancers. Whoa what? Scientists wanted to learn if taking supplements had the same good effects on health as eating fruits and vegetables. The answer is no. However, the scientists still do not know why this is happening on a molecular level. A few findings:
- High doses of beta carotene increase risk lung cancer
- High doses selenium increased risk for skin cancer
- High doses vitamin E elevated risk for prostate cancer
- Many doctors and researchers say supplements have no benefit what so ever, and are a waste of money
There is No Substitute for Wholesome, Nutritional, “Real” Food!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell says, “Isolated nutrients never have the same beneficial effect as healthy, whole foods….” He goes on to explain that foods work in symphony with each other. It is better to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables instead of taking supplements. Spend your money wisely on clean foods instead of wasting it on dubious vitamins and supplements!
Unregulated Vitamin and Supplement Industry
Another big issue with supplements is that the industry is not regulated. The industry markets supplements as health promoting, when indeed we may not know what is even in them. We do not truly know what is inside the bottle! The New York State Attorney office recently accused four major retailers, GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart of selling fraudulent supplements. Medicinal supplements were found to contain little or none of the herbs listed on the packages. Instead, powdered rice and other mysterious unlisted ingredients filled the capsules. Right now, the FDA operates on the honor code so there really is not any regulation at all, in stark contrast to prescription drugs. Interesting to note that Orrin Hatch, a senior senator from Utah has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the supplement industry and has repeatedly crushed any opposition to the status quo. The status quo is that supplements are only pulled from the shelves when something terrible happens, if people get very very sick. It does happen. Instead, eat a varied diet full of healthy, colorful fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes.
What About Fish Oil?
Fish oil is the third most widely used supplement in the US because people think it will lower the risk for cardio vascular disease. However, the vast majority of clinical trials do not substantiate that claim. There is no evidence fish oil lowers heart disease. Sales keep going up, while the evidence accumulates that fish oil does not help protect us against heart attack and stroke. Without describing, at length, a variety of studies starting in the 1970s, written up by the New York Times in March 2015, it does appear that fish oil makes little or no difference in protecting us against heart disease.
One Supplement is an Exception: Vitamin B12 is Essential!
Vitamin B12 is vital for the formation of red blood cells, as well as for the proper functioning and health of nerve tissue. People with B12 deficiency may eventually develop pernicious anemia, a type of blood disorder. Other dangerous conditions like paralysis, psychosis, blindness, and death can occur at later stages. Yikes!
Vitamin B12 is an issue for people who eat a whole food, plant based, vegan diet because B12 is found mainly in animal products. Vitamin B12 can also be found in fortified soy milks, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast. However, it is hard to get enough every day. It is especially important for people over the age of 50, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children to get enough vitamin B12.
Which Vitamin B12 Should I Buy?
Purchase B12 supplements with the NSF or USP certification on the label. What does it mean when a supplement is NSF certified? Good question! From the NSF website:
“Dietary supplements are evaluated to confirm that they actually contain the ingredients and quantities shown on the label as well as to make sure they do not contain excessive levels of impurities like heavy metals or pesticides. Certification must be renewed annually to ensure each product continues to comply with all requirements to maintain product certification.” Search the NSF website for their database of dietary vitamins and supplements or Consumer Lab for reports and shopping information.
We need to eat as much real food, plant based foods as we can. We need to eat fruit and vegetables every day! Whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds are part of a healthy plant based, vegan diet. Skip the various vitamins and supplements; save your money and just buy a good Vitamin B12 supplement. Then go outside and take a nice walk, or meet up with a friend knowing you are on the journey to a healthier lifestyle. Learn more about Better Eating for Life here. Take the risk of feeling fabulous!
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