As colds spread and the temperature drops, many shops are filling up with supplements and advertisements promising to protect us from diseases and to boost our immune systems.
But are these tablets and powders effective or are we being swindled?
Here is a look at both sides of the coin:
Yes, Supplements are a Waste of Your Time and Money
Vitamins found in food protect us from various diseases.
For instance, a Lancet research found that enhancing your daily consumption of vitamin C from vegetables and fruits minimized the risk of heart attack, cancer and cardiovascular diseases by over 50 percent.
But what about supplements that are given in supplement form, do they provide any extra benefit?
In a study conducted at Oxford University where 20,000 people were tracked it was found that taking supplements had no more protection against heart attack, cancer or stroke. The researchers say the body absorbed the supplements but they did nothing.
They also argue that many supplements are synthetic and have different structures that are not recognized by our bodies. They say you are better off getting your vitamins from organic vegetables and fruits rather than artificial supplements.
No, They Are Not a Waste of Your Time and Money
One of the main arguments for using multivitamins is that human beings cannot get enough nutrients from food alone.
The RDA’S (Recommended daily allowances) are just the minimum amounts required to prevent physiological deficiency and not to maintain optimal health.
Many nutritionists argue that optimal amounts that would significantly minimize the risk of diseases such as cancer are thrice to 5 times the recommended daily allowances, and getting these high amounts from food alone is almost impossible because the food we eat today is nutritionally impoverished due to the chemicals used in farming and the intensive processing.
Besides, the fierce competition in the supplements market has caused a dramatic fall in the prices.
Secondly, the vendors themselves are giving out discount coupons in order to expand their market share. For example, vitacost and puritan’s pride are giving up to 60% discounts
In addition, research shows that levels of important minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium in soils have fallen by over 60% over the last 30 years.
Also, many people have a habit of overcooking food nowadays which usually results in a huge loss of nutrients meaning, fewer enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins to go around.
Moreover, as the body ages it tends to produce fewer enzymes including even the important ones needed to assimilate and digest the food we consume. This usually results in stomach complains like chronic constipation, stomach upset, heartburn and reflux.
In addition, according to NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) certain individuals who are at a risk of deficiencies should also consider using supplements.
Expectant women for instance, should take folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy and vitamin D until they stop breast feeding to control the levels of phosphate and calcium in their bodies.
Folic acid prevents neural tube effects like spina bifida and consuming foods such as brown rice and leafy vegetables alone is cannot give them the required amount of these nutrients.
As you can see our bodies need enough nutrients every day to stay healthy and to preserve our immune system and they cannot be obtained from the food we eat nowadays alone.
The average human plate leaves a lot to be desired. It is no wonder many people go for supplements to make up for what they are missing and to give themselves an extra boost to ward off illnesses.
Nonetheless not all supplements deliver on the promise of optimum health. Some can be hazardous, especially when taken in higher than the recommended doses.
The Bottom line
Of course, nothing can replace consuming a healthy diet.
But taking whole food and high-quality supplements can go along in helping you maintain optimum health. For those who are still struggling with bad habits like not taking organic foods or skipping meals you need supplements even more!
Nonetheless, before using any supplement, it is important to ascertain whether the benefits outweigh the risks. What’s more, do not consume more than the advised dose unless your health care provider recommends it.