Supplements: Friend or Foe?

by Julie Evans-Vitale

Recently there’s been talk that vitamins and antioxidant supplements may do more harm than good. This is both true and false. The deciding factor being the type of supplements: whole food or synthetic.

A whole food supplement – one made from real food sources – is distinguished by the ingredients listed on the label. You should see things such as carrots, beets, kale, spinach, etc. In natural sources like these, the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant ratios are perfectly balanced to meet your nutritional and functional requirements. It’s the package of nutrition that’s available in food sources that nature intended for you to eat that is essential for you to live and live healthfully.

Vitamins aren’t just chemicals; they are organic complexes which are essential for life. Each one plays a unique and important role in the body. Vitamins are made up of many components: enzymes, coenzymes, trace element activators, minerals, and antioxidants. These components are synergistic, meaning they cannot do their job without all of the components. As you can see from the list above, antioxidants are just one part of the vitamin complex.

How can you tell the difference? If the ingredients on the label are things like thiamin, riboflavin, tocopherols, etc., your vitamins are most likely synthetic. The “recommended dietary allowance” (RDA) on these vitamin labels may be impressively high – 1000% for example. The truth is that your body cannot absorb that much at one time. As much as 90% of these vitamins will be discarded by your body. An easy check is that your urine will often be “radioactive yellow” when taking a vitamin based on synthetic vitamins. Also, don’t be fooled by the use of the word “natural.” This can be used on the label when only 10% of the ingredients are natural.

As a nation we are becoming more conscious of chemicals in our foods and household items, but we are ingesting them in mass quantities in our supplements; thinking we are doing our body good! The common pharmaceutical practice is to isolate a part of the vitamin complex, multiply the quantity, and load up on what amounts to a partial vitamin. When single components are isolated and concentrated like this, you frequently don’t get the expected results.

Vitamin C is an excellent example of this. We associate vitamin C with ascorbic acid. In reality, ascorbic acid is only one part of the vitamin C complex. There are at least seven other components of the vitamin C complex that are needed by your body to properly utilize the ascorbic acid. If you don’t supply the body with the necessary components, the body will find them elsewhere, usually in the tissues, bones, and cells. So as you load up on ascorbic acid, you slowly become deficient in other nutrients. It’s a little like eating an eggshell instead of the egg.

I have only scratched the surface of this subject to alert you that there is a big difference between supplements. Our bodies are amazing, and the role that vitamin complexes play in sustaining life is extremely important. Remember that synergy and potency are much more effective than quantity. Don’t buy four tires, when what you really want is a car. Finally, one size doesn’t fit all with respect to vitamins any more than it applies to shoes. You have specific and individual nutritional needs. Make an appointment with a nutritionist to see what vitamins you should be taking.

For more information please contact Nutrition Clinic at 636-386-3333 or visit www.Nutrition-Clinic.com.