Are supplements healthy? Really healthy? Judging by the booming trade, one would think they are. But over time, I’ve gathered information from people I have come to trust, and it doesn’t look as rosy as the advertising would have you believe.
It’s important to appreciate that there are two distinct sources of supplements.
The superfoods, such as algae, chlorella, spirulina, which do contain high levels of bioavailable natural nutrients for overall health, with some that are specific for an organ, such as kelp for the thyroid.
Then there are the synthetic supplements that are made in a laboratory, often from petro-chemicals, but invariably from something unnatural or processed.
The way to distinguish them is by the label. Algae tells you very clearly this is algae on the label. The synthetic ones are called by their so-called nutrient – vitamin C, selenium, calcium, etc.
It’s very clear which is which when you know what you’re looking for.
Turning the bottle over and examining the ingredient list will also give you a lot of information. You may have to look some of it up.
The problems with synthetic supplements
Synthetic supplements can be beneficial in highly deficient beings when used for a short period. For example, the synthetic vitamin C has been known to bring people back from death’s door when critically ill.
The problem arises when they’re taken long term and in those who are not chronically deficient.
If you’re lucky, then they may just pass straight through, only hurting your wallet. If you’re unlucky, they can hang up in places in the body they have no business being, causing mischief. And you’re unlikely to make that connection. Neither is your GP.
Why does that happen?
Because these supplements aren’t from real food. Real food contains the perfect balance of nutrients that are needed for efficient utilisation. For instance kale contains macro minerals, trace elements, vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, even some fat. The body is well equipped to absorb these. They all depend on each other. You can’t separate them out, as the synthetic supplements do, and gain benefit.
For the carnivores in our world, the cats and the dogs (not true carnivores but for the sake of this article, they can be considered that), bones in their diet contain the macro minerals in perfect combination that are needed to digest meat and provide maximum nutrition. Adding calcium carbonate, even from a natural source, falls very short of that.
Specific health problems with synthetic supplements
Below is some information I’ve gathered, from various sources over the years, which has caused me to ponder the question are supplements healthy, that many ask. I encourage you to do your own research. This can be a good place to start.
- folic acid may increase your risk of coronary closure, resulting in more surgery (folate is found naturally is green leafy vegetables and has no risk)
- vitamin A/beta carotene may increase your risk of mortality, may increase lung cancer by 18% in smokers, may increase mortality due to liver damage by 8%, may increase hip fracture in women (betacarotene is found aplenty in orange and red coloured vegetables, such as carrots and it’s carotene than humans need rather than the vitamin A from meat)
- vitamin E increases the severity of infections (seeds especially sunflower seeds, nuts especially almonds, avocado and many fruits are high in vitamin E, along with all the other nutrients needed to efficiently absorb it)
- vitamin D – high doses may cause more fractures (the sun converts our cholesterol to vitamin D and when you overdo that, this shuts down and you develop discomfort which tends to make you move out of the sun)
- vitamin B6 and B12 may increase kidney problems and vascular events, while B12 may result in aggressive lung cancer (most of the B vitamins are abundant in green vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit, while B12 can be found in algae, and eating fruit with a bloom on such as blueberries and by gardening!)
Some foods are supplemented with these synthetic supplements. It’s common in breakfast cereals, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast and bread. Cheese contains sodium aluminium phosphate or aluminium sulphate, which is usually benignly listed as a salt. Not too many people would consume aluminium knowingly.
Are supplements healthy?
When you look at the whole picture, supplements may not be the source of nutrition you believe they to be.
There is a wide belief that because the food produced today is so deficient, supplements are required. And there is validity in the poor food produced today. However, I don’t feel that supplements are the answer. Instead, it’s far more beneficial to buy certified organic food which is far more nutritious. Yes, it may be more expensive, but aren’r our priorities a bit skewed when we don’t value our health?
And it becomes much more cost effective when you factor in the cost of the health supplement.
Another factor that few people consider is to eat right for our species. Humans benefit greatly from a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, as researcher T Colin Campbell discovered over his 65 years in nutritional studies. The longest lived, the most physically active people of the world thrive on this diet.