Are You Throwing Away Your Money on Vitamin Supplements that Don’t Work?
It is estimated that annually, Americans spend nearly $30 billion on vitamins and herbal supplements. Would it come as a surprise to you to hear at least 25% of that $30 billion is totally wasted? Do some research and you’ll soon discover that many supplements don’t actually contain what’s on the label. Worse, some supplements are tainted with toxic chemicals like lead, arsenic, and pesticides.
According to Consumer Lab, a company that has tested more than 2,000 health supplements, 1 in 4 has quality problems. Their study of multivitamins found that 32% had defects.
This means at least $7 billion of vitamin and herbal supplements purchased in the US every year are essentially worthless — and possibly even dangerous.
Obviously, not all health supplements are created equal. Which is why in our practice, people are coached in the use of the Sway Test, a kinesiology tool that gives you a “yes” and a “no”. It makes grabbing bottles off a grocery store shelf willy-nilly a poor strategy if your goal is to improve your health.
Do Your Own Research
It is vitally important to do your research and make sure you’re getting only high-quality health supplements from trusted manufacturers/vendors. The government’s Office of Dietary Supplements offers free fact sheets on supplements here. Importantly, it notes how well testing backs up the uses the herbs are getting recommended for.
But let’s assume for a moment that you’ve done your research and you’re taking nothing but high-quality supplements. Even then, there’s a good chance you’re not actually getting the health benefits you think you are.
So What Can Consumers Do?
For starters, look for “USP,” “NSF,” or “Consumer Lab” on the bottle. The Council for Responsible Nutrition trade association recommends that shoppers look for a quality seal or third-party certification from the USP (United States Pharmacopeia), NSF International or Consumer Lab. These products have undergone rigorous third-party certification to make sure their ingredients meet quality standards.
Where Do Vitamins Come From?
When people think of vitamin supplements, most think “natural.” However, vitamin supplements can be artificial or natural. Many vitamin supplements produced today are artificial. There are six categories of nutrients used in the manufacturing of vitamin supplements. They are:
1. Natural Source
These include nutrients from vegetable, animal or mineral sources. Before making it into the supplement bottle, they undergo significant processing and refining. Examples include vitamin D from fish liver oils, vitamin E from vegetable oils, and natural beta-carotene.
When a vitamin is marked “natural”, it only has to include 10% of actual natural plant-derived ingredients. The other 90% could be synthetic.
2. Nature-Identical Synthetic
This includes nutrients completely manufactured in a lab with the molecular structure identical to the same nutrients occurring in nature. Manufacturers often prefer this process because of the cost and scarcity of natural resources. Most standard vitamin supplements on the market today are this type.
3. Strictly Synthetic
Starting materials for strictly synthetic supplements can be anything from coal tar to petroleum to acetylene gas. These supplements are made in facilities via chemical manipulations with the goal of duplicating the structure of the isolated vitamin. Specific formulas for the process aren’t made available to the public.
An example is vitamin B1. Coal tar is a widely used foundational substance for this vitamin — typically a crystalline yellow coal tar, from coal, a fossil fuel. Hydrochloric acid is often added to allow precipitation. Then fermentation, heating, cooling, and other steps are completed until a final synthetic vitamin is created. It’s then dried and tested for purity before being shipped to distributors.
4. Food Cultured
This involves the same process behind cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut. Nutrient supplements are often grown in yeast or algae. Culturing in and of itself creates nutrients and can make them more bioavailable.
One kind of food-based supplement is made by enzymatically reacting synthetic and natural vitamins with extracts containing vegetable proteins and then making this into a supplement. This is not food cultured because the nutrients are not grown into a whole food, as in the yeast/algae suspensions.
Manufacturers don’t often use concentrates or extracts derived from whole food sources because of low nutrient potency, fluctuating nutrient levels, and limited shelf life.
6. Bacterial Fermentation
This includes nutrients produced by genetically altering bacteria. Genetically altered bacteria can produce nutrient by-products.
Examples include CoQ10, amino acids, ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), menaquinone (vitamin K2), riboflavin (fermentation of ribose), cyancobalamin (vitamin B12; this is exclusively obtained via fermentation processes, as the naturally occurring source of B12 is bacterial metabolic activity.
So Why Take Vitamins In The First Place?
Do we even really need to be taking vitamin supplements? Shouldn’t we get everything we need from a healthy and balanced diet? Sadly, that is not the case because as a society, we are experiencing steadily declining health. It is well documented that since1968, we have introduced thousands more chemicals into our environment, our soil has continually become depleted, our food supply has been adulterated and we’ve become sicker. Our food supply isn’t as rich in nutrients as it was prior to 1968 before: 1. Mono-crop farming 2. Depleted soil 3. Lack of crop rotation and 4. Earlier harvest for longer transports.
Ideally, we take multi-vitamin supplements with the intention of supplementing our existing diet. Traditionally, daily multivitamins were meant to prevent nutritional deficiencies. But do they?
There is a big difference between the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) and the actual intake levels that are necessary to maintain optimal health. Not being sick is not the same thing as optimal health. And of course variations in optimal intake levels would vary further to resolve the deficiencies that are causing much of what we are suffering from.
In fact, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) outlined by our government posted on the back of food packages and all supplement bottles, just isn’t accurate.
What is the RDI?
The RDI is the daily intake level of a nutrient that in 1968 was considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals in every demographic in the United States. The reality is that while our health has declined since these numbers were presented, to the extent that nearly 70% of the American population is on at least one pharmaceutical medication, it goes without debate: We know we have a problem!
So suppose the figures for RDI are correct. Remember it was calculated to meet the requirements of HEALTHY individuals. So put your finger right now on a healthy individual. I must say, that it’s tough to find a healthy person these days. How many people do you know that are in perfect health? Consider these criteria for HEALTH.
1. They sleep well
2. They eat a clean diet
3. They are drinking clean water
4. They are getting regular exercise
5. They don’t suffer from any type of body pain
6. They suffer NO:
mood imbalance or any other type of bodily symptom.
Are You Getting Enough Trace Minerals From The Foods You Normally Eat?
According to Ty Bollinger, “minerals create the energetic spark that our bodies need to perform many essential, life-giving functions, just like how a battery provides a vehicle with the electrical charge it needs to get going.
In a perfect world, we would get all the trace minerals we need from the foods we eat. But unfortunately, our soils aren’t as healthy as they used to be. You might think you’re “eating healthy”. But conventional fruits and vegetables are now nutritionally “poor” — a shadow of what they used to be. A 1992 study found that U.S. soils contain a shocking 86% fewer minerals than they did 100 years ago! Because of heavy food processing and poor diets in general, most people don’t get nearly enough minerals. The result is a widespread mineral deficiency and an epidemic of chronic disease.”
What Are Trace Minerals?
By definition, a mineral is really any inorganic substance that occurs naturally and has an orderly crystalline structure. Rocks, metals, and soils all contain minerals, as does the water in the earth’s oceans. We typically refer to these tiny energetic minerals as trace minerals because our bodies don’t need much of them to see big results.
There are 103 known mineral varieties, and at least 18 of them fall into the trace mineral category, playing a critical role in human health. These include iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, molybdenum, iodine, chromium, potassium, selenium, sodium, chloride, sulfate, and boron. Our bodies require each and every one of these trace minerals in proper balance to facilitate health and well-being. For example:
Iron – Approximately, two-thirds of the iron in your body is found in hemoglobin – the protein in your red blood cells. The iron in hemoglobin binds to oxygen from your lungs and delivers it to the rest of the tissues in your body. Iron also transports oxygen to your muscles and aids in the synthesis of neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers in your brain.
Zinc is necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis. Zinc also allows your body to produce white blood cells, which keep your immune system strong, and plays a role in wound healing. Infants need adequate amounts of zinc to grow and develop properly.
Selenium helps regulate the thyroid hormones in your body and also functions as an antioxidant, protecting your body from free radicals – unstable substances that may contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
Chromium increases the effectiveness of insulin in your cells. Because of this, researchers believe that chromium may help diabetics improve their blood sugar control.
How Would You Know If You Have Mineral Deficiencies?
Actually, to determine for sure if you have mineral deficiencies, you would need a detailed analysis of your blood. Below is a partial list of symptoms and diseases associated with deficiencies in trace minerals or mineral imbalances.
- Poor concentration
- Hypothyroidism Diabetes
- Memory problems
- Frequent food cravings
- Impaired growth
- High cholesterol
- Coronary disease
- Multiple Sclerosis Cancer
- Immune deficiencies
- Premature aging
So, Where Does The One-A-Day Vitamin “Doctor’s Choose” Fit In?
To ensure you are getting a health-promoting vitamin supplement, see if the label details ‘whole food’ since your cells recognize it and are maximally absorbed. Check to see there are no harmful acids, chemicals, preservatives, sweeteners, or coloring added.
When choosing vitamin select one that indicates a dosage of 2 to 3 times a day because multivitamins are supposed to provide nutrients our diets are lacking. Some nutrients, like vitamin C and the B’s only last in the body about 4 hours. You can see, therefore, blood levels of the nutrients will have faded away unless the dose is repeated! Consequently, the One-a-Day type is a marketing ploy.
It makes good sense to purchase supplements at your doctor’s office, health food stores, not drug stores. Drug stores tend to carry the lowest quality and cheapest supplements available, which translates to supplements containing fillers and additives that may do more harm to our health than any nutritional value the pill could supply. Furthermore, they may be in a form that is least absorbable. Here’s a partial label from the one TV ads say is #1 with physicians. The manufacturer, Pfizer, heavily sample the physicians via their reps that leave abundant samples of this vitamin, Centrum, in physicians’ offices.
Do the doctors know the following?
Chemicals: Amount Found in Centrum/ EPA Maximum Allowed Limit in 1 Liter of Drinking Water
1. Sodium selenite : 55 mcg/ 50 mcg (causes DNA damage, cancer and birth defects)
2. Nickelous sulfate: 5 mcg/ 100 mcg (not nutrient required by human beings)
3. Stannous chloride (tin): 10 mcg/ 4 mcg (not nutrient required by human beings)
4. Ferrous fumarate (iron): 18 mg/ .3 mg (the most constipating form of iron)
5. Manganese sulfate: 2.3 mg/ .05 mg
6. Cupric sulfate: .5 mg/ 1.3 mg (used as a herbicide, fungicide, and pesticide)
In the left hand column above, you will see the quantities of inorganic minerals found within each dose of Centrum. In the right hand column are the maximum quantity allowed by the EPA in one liter of drinking water. Although the others listed are at levels well under the EPA’s allowable limit, the fact that they are found in a product for human consumption at any quantity given their known toxicity is amazing! Written By: Sayer Ji, Is Your Multivitamin Toxic?
When choosing a supplement the form of the vitamins and minerals does matter. Paying attention to both what is in the supplement and to what isn’t is of equal importance. Keep the additives, preservatives, binding agents, food dyes and other harmful ingredients out. They add up. You don’t want anything in your supplement that can cause further harm to your health.
Remember, you are NOT what you eat. You are what you Absorb!