This is a multi-billion dollar industry. We're talking $20 billion dollars easily on just "weight loss" supplements and another $7.5 billion on "vitamins".
I can’t tell you how many patients come in and say that they’d rather take supplements and vitamins than take prescription medications that we prescribe them. That is the battle that we face every day.
In fact, $34 billion dollars spent annually on complementary and alternative medicine (chiropractic, massuese, supplements, herbal, accupuncture, vitamins, and others). That's more than is spent on traditional medicine that a physician provides.
Based on the standard American diet, very few of us are deficient in anything. We get all the vitamins, minerals, and calories we ever need. Any additional supplements are just going to be urinated out. You are paying for expensive urine.
Back in the late 1800 and early 1900, there were a lot of diseases associated with vitamin deficiencies. Rickets, Pellagra, and a number of other diseases. That's where the concept of taking a daily multivitamin pill came from. Today, very few Americans are deficient in anything. Unfortunately, if you take a multivitamin daily, and think it's a substitute for proper eating, you are dead wrong. Multivitamin pills contain only a few substances, maybe 20 at the most. When you eat a fruit or a vegetable, you are eating a product that contains hundreds of useful substances, not just a handful. You may be doing more harm than good by thinking that taking a pill is a substitute for eating right. Eat right and stop buying pills.
Further, evidence is mounting that most multivitamins and pills don't contain much of the substances that they say they contain. Make sure you check with independant testing laboratories to confirm that what you are buying really has what it says it has in it.
There are no supplements that “boost your immune system”. That isn’t possible. Be careful what you decide to take. While antioxidants are useful when you eat them in their naturally occurring state (like nuts, fruits, and vegetables), they have been found to be useless in pill form. In fact one antioxidant, vitamin E, has been shown to be harmful if taken as a pill. There was increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and death.
If you really believe in supplements, don’t overdo it. Many of these are very toxic when you take too much. If you must, one multivitamin pill per day is usually sufficient. In the next few pages you will read about the only supplements that you will ever need.
Save your money!
We really don't need to be taking all the stuff we see people taking. We already consume too much as is. The American diet is not deficient in much, but there are some things that we definitely need.
Women Calcium and Vitamin D
Women certainly need calcium and vitamin D. Osteoporosis is a major problem in later years, but can be prevented in the teenage years. Taking calcium and vitamin D in your teens (and throughout your life) will protect you from fractures and bone loss in later years.
Don't compromise on the calcium. If it constipates you, take Miralax daily and this should help alleviate your constipation. Miralax is an odorless, tasteless crystal that attracts water to your colon and softens your stool. It is not a stimulant and will not cause you to cramp.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to play a major role in cardiovascular health. They help decrease blood pressure, reduce inflammation in blood vessels, improve blood vessel wall function, stabilize plaques in your arteries, reduce fatty acids and tryglycerides, make platelets less sticky and improve nearly every metabolic process we have studied. There is no denying the benefits of Omega 3.
Whenever patients ask me about a new supplement or a new herb, I like to say, "Trust me if it did all that we'd make it into a pill and prescribe it to every one."
We have done just that. Many patients are on prescription Omega 3 oils. These are purified, FDA regulated and must contain what they say they contain.
Natural sources of Omega 3s are oily fish. Salmon, tuna, mackeral are the most common sources. Unfortunately, Americans don't eat much fish, hence we never get enough Omega 3s. Farm raised tuna and salmon don't have as much Omega 3s as ones caught in the wild.
Which Omega 3s?
That is the biggest question. You need to be taking Omega 3s that contain eicosapentaenoic acid EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the two that have been studied the most and harbor all of the cardiovascular benefits of Omega 3 oils.
While flaxseed oil contains a lot of α-linolenic acid (ALA), it does not conatin the two that have shown the most benefit. If you are buying an Omega 3 product, make sure it contains DHA and EPA.
Read the ingredients. Although some fish oil products may say 1200mg or 1000mg, read the actual ingredients to see how much of each Omega 3 is really in each pill. You may find many of them only contain 300mg of DHA or EPA.
The other alternative is to talk to your doctor about being on prescription Omega 3. The quality and content is well controlled and you know what you are getting.
Studies have shown that 80-90% of people north of Atlanta are deficient. Why is this important? Sure, it helps with bone and calcium metabolism, but there is a lot more to the story. Vitamin D is involved in nearly every metabolic process in the body. Cardiovascular health, heart failure, hypertension, dyslipidemia, fatigue, inflammation, blood vessel lining function, platelet function, and many more functions are being discovered and reported every day.
If you want your level checked, you should check a 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D (25OH Vitamin D). Under 20 is considered severely deficient. A level 20-30 is deficient. They have found that most problems begin to occur at a level of 40 or less. So, while 30 or more is considered normal, we should aim for a target of over 40.
Vitamin D comes from the sun. Humans try to avoid the sun at all costs now with clothing, sunscreen and working indoors. So we need to be supplemented.
It’s easy to replace Vitamin D with very small pills that you can take daily or weekly. Normally we start supplementing people with doses like 50,000 units one a week for 12 weeks, then put them on a maintenance dose of about 15,000 per week. You can purchase over the counter pills of 5000 units. Take three per week. It's very difficult to reach toxic doses of Vitamin D, so don't worry about this.
Fifteen minutes of bright sun exposure is the equivalent of taking 20,000 units. Getting Vitamin D from the sun converting it in our skin is natural and you can never get toxic this way. But sun exposure makes you look older, harms your skin, and results in skin cancer.
Unfortunately, the USRDA thinks that we only need 400-800 per day. These numbers are being revised and looked at more closely. Most Vitamin D experts would agree that we need at least 2000 per day. As a reference, an 8oz glass of "Vitamin D" milk usually contains 200 units of Vitamin D. Future, USRDA requirements for children will likely be 800 per day, and adults probably 2000 per day.