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To Supplement or Not: 3 Myths You Should Avoid

If you could live a longer, healthier life by taking a small pill each day, you'd do it wouldn't you? You’d be crazy not to! Now I’m not talking about prescribed medications – that’s a different story. The pills I’m talking about popping are nutritional supplements.

It's estimated that one out of every three Americans currently takes some sort of nutritional supplement each day. According to government statistics, more than $11 billion is spent each year on vitamins and minerals in the U.S. alone! The unfortunate part? Most of the sales figures are fueled by false advertisement.

The Internet, television, and product labels make claims not backed by science, fooling millions and reaping a sizable paycheck. And because supplements sold in America aren’t as regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as medications are; many supplement manufacturers can remain rather “loose” when backing their product’s claims by science. That said, I believe there are benefits to adding certain nutritional supplements to ones’ personal regimen. For example, I take Vitamin D daily in order to compensate for my pale skins desire to avoid direct sunlight… However, my advice to you is not to be fooled by the following most commonly believed myths about them. The More is Better Myth: There is a strong belief that if vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and herbs are good for you and they are easily available over the counter, they must be safe to take in high doses. Wrong…

Unless directed by your doctor or dietician, over supplementation could leave you feeling less than healthy. For example; You feel a cold coming on so you pop the vitamin C pills and lozenges to ward it off, but you do it sensibly following recommended dosage.

Yet, when you subscribe to the “more is better” myth and overdose on vitamin C, your body loses its ability to absorb copper; too much phosphorous and your body can't absorb enough calcium; vitamins A, D, and K can build up to toxic levels when large doses are taken; too much vitamin A will put you at risk for osteoporosis; too much vitamin E may increase your risk of stroke; and iron your risk of heart disease.

All this can be pretty scary! After all, you thought those supplements came with no risks… Unless your physician suggests otherwise, you should choose you multivitamins and other supplements base those containing no more than 100 percent of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for each ingredient. If you are on any prescribed medications, check to be certain there are no contra reactions, and be careful of combining a multivitamin with another vitamin supplement. The Supplements More Than Make Up for My Unhealthy Diet Myth: This myth couldn’t be more wrong… Remember Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamins? When I was a kid, my parents gave these to me every morning before sending me off to school. They particularly relied on them for those mornings when I didn’t have time for breakfast. They had bought into the myth that these supplements contained everything I needed to start my day. Tsk, tsk.

Unfortunately, many adults feel the same way about their own “grown up” vitamins…

Well, you should be wary of relying solely on supplements to make up for your nutritional deficiencies. Your body is better able to absorb nutrients from real food, so supplements should only be taken as icing on your healthy cake. Besides, relying on supplements to fill in nutritional gaps can put you at risk for the overdosing dangers mentioned above. With a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you’ve got little to improve upon through supplementation. Eating a healthy well-rounded diet will also provide millions of phytonutrients unavailable in supplement form. And supplements are more effective when taken with a meal and are made less effective when taken on an empty stomach. The "If The Label Says It, Then It Must Be True…" Myth: Not necessarily… Many supplement containers describe the health benefits their ingredients “aim” at providing. These benefits can range from increased vitality to improved disease immunity. Great as these claims may sound, they are not always backed up by significant, and proper research. They are, however, great marketing tools that, if you’re not careful, will pull you in and trick you right out of your money. There have been some cases where it’s been revealed that a manufacturer’s vitamin product didn’t include the ingredients in the amounts listed on the labels and even contained some dangerous ingredients. Nope. The best bet is to aim for eating a well-balanced meal first. Then, choose a reputable supplement to support your efforts. Just make sure you don’t fall for the myths I mentioned above. ;-)


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