Supplements – Effectiveness, Risk, and the Benefits of Another Alternative
The billion dollar industry that nearly everyone has been turning to in order to keep them healthy is the supplement industry. Just think about it; all most everywhere you can go in America you are likely to find a GNC, a Vitamin World or at least one aisle in pharmacies and grocery shops that is dedicated to displaying these “magical tablets.” It’s amazing; there are thousands of supplements that are used for an uncountable amount of reasons. The most common reasons that I find are weight loss pills, daily vitamins, and muscle building supplements for men who want to “bulk up.” The problem with these vitamins is that they are not USDA regulated and are often not tested, and if they are tested who is publishing the results and conducting the studies? Usually the company who made the product of course. Therefore, it only makes sense that they would publish positive results.
So how do you know if they are really working? When you begin to take a daily vitamin supplement do you notice a difference in your overall health? Most likely that answer is no and more no, but people keep on taking them anyway because they assume that they are working when in reality chances are; they aren’t. Hmmm… So now you see our problem.
Let’s first take a look at how supplements are made. The vitamins and nutrients are extracted from their original sources and are then processed and packaged into, tablets, powders, and gels, etc. During this procession the nutrients are modified and killed. When the vitamins are in their original food sources, they are a living part of a living organism that actively help that organism thrive. Once you separate the vitamin from the organism, both the vitamin and the organism die because neither is sustainable without the other. An organism is a perfectly balanced ecosystem that requires regularity and must be complete in order to live.
This is similar to the way in which a person becomes weak when they lose a lot of blood. So basically what I am hinting at here is that despite the fact that you are ingesting vitamins, they are usually not all that useful and will be expelled from the body as opposed to being absorbed without much harm or help. This is evident in the trend of middle aged women taking calcium supplements, studies show that women who take the supplements are no better off than those who do not according to doctor Neal Barnard, founder of the nonprofit organization called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine based in Washington D.C. which concentrates on how diet affects the body.
Another factor that most people don’t consider is the safety of taking supplements. Since their production is not strictly regulated they are likely to contain ingredients that are actually harmful for our bodies. These include metabolic steroids, mercury (in fish oil), metals, and other indigestible metals. Also studies of individual supplements reported in the New York Times article titled, “Personal Health, Potential Harm in Dietary Supplements,” by Jane E. Brody on April 8th, 2008 show the harmful effects/ineffectiveness of supplements by stating: “observational studies of people who eat foods rich in antioxidants like vitamins A and E and beta-carotene have suggested these substances improve health.
But well-designed clinical trials found increased death rates among people who take them as supplements. And while low vitamin C doses can suppress harmful free radicals, very high doses promote their formation. The initial promise that vitamin E could protect against heart attacks and cancer failed to stand up to scientific scrutiny, which instead found that it increased the risk of heart failure.” Also, people do not consider supplements with the same respect that they do for medications and commonly forget to mention them to their doctors upon being asked what medications they are taking. It is often possible for the supplements to react with new medications or surgeries being preformed which can be harmful to the body.
Although usually these interactions are not deadly, in some cases they can be. Another harmful ingredient that was being legally included in weight loss supplements was ephedra, which was recently found to be deadly. Other weight loss supplements contain large amounts of caffeine which increases the heart rate and blood pressure dangerously and can lead to increased levels of anxiety in those who are prone to being anxious. These examples are just a few of many, a simple web search will bring up endless credible accounts of the ineffectiveness and risks that are associated with supplements.
Since taking supplements is not very effective in most cases, we must turn to our only other option, and frankly the more valuable option: FOOD! The truth is simply that we should be receiving our daily dose of vitamins …