There are over 54,000 dietary supplements in the U.S. alone claiming to help you gain muscle mass, lose weight or boost your immune system. Have you been wasting money on supplements that in reality do absolutely nothing for you?
If you are currently using supplements or are planning to do so in the future then I suggest you continue reading.
Are Supplements Safe?
Anything that is properly regulated must be safe right? Wrong! We all know that medicine has very strict regulations and yet sometimes these same medicines cause harm to the person using them.
Take thalidomide for instance which was used as a cure for morning sickness. It actually caused about 20,000 birth defects.
Now it is a fact that supplement regulation is a joke compared to medicine regulation, so judge for yourself.
Also, know that “natural” does not always equal “safe”. Take ephedra for instance. It is a Chinese herb that has been used by athletes for performance enhancement, losing weight and has various medicinal qualities. However ephedra is also known to cause a list of complications as listed below:
- severe skin reactions
- profuse perspiration
- itchy scalp and skin
- irregular heartbeat
- heart attack
Do I Really Need Supplements?
Before we talk about the doubtful candidates, below is a list of people who definitely need supplements:
- People with Vitamin D deficiency
- cancer and HIV patients
- anorexia patients
- people with kidney, cardiovascular, or bone disease
- pregnant women
- strict vegetarians
- senior citizens
You might be going through the list and wondering how come you don’t qualify to be on the list-especially if you are an athlete. If you are a regular Joe then it is because a balanced diet and exercise is enough to give you all that your body needs. In fact it is way superior a method than any supplement use. If you are an athlete, I would suggest you read “The Truth About Supplements” on the Men’s Health website or Stephen Kesting’s “The Truth About Supplements-Everybody is Lying to You”.
Supplements do exactly what the name suggests, they supplement our diet and are not suited to replace a good balanced meal. If you visit your local Burger King restaurant every other day supplements are definitely a waste of your money.
Did You Know That:
- Doctors need to know if you are taking supplements because some supplements like iron and calcium effect how medicine is absorbed and metabolized either rendering the medicine ineffective or raising them to toxic levels.
- Many supplements are blends or formulas so you are not getting what you purchased in its pure form.
- The ingredients are listed in descending order starting with the highest content on top.
- Many supplement manufacturers purposely underestimate or overestimate how many milligrams of the main ingredient is actually present in a pill or capsule.
- Almost all research that has been made to support efficiency of supplements are shoddy. By the time this research is debunked the money has already rolled in and a new supplement hits the market (mostly true for weight loss and body building).
So What Now?
It is not all doom and gloom. You can always use supplements if you research their safety and proper usage to gain maximum benefit from them. Just don’t use them and expect miracles.
According to WebMD there are 10 categories of dietary supplements that top the list. You need to understand which category the supplement you use or plan to use falls under and follow their advice. I have gone through the pains of summarizing it for you below:
Select based on your age and gender to use on days you fall short of a balanced meal. A better alternative is not to skip a balanced meal.
Powdered and Liquid Meal Replacements
Use only in combination with a lifestyle of exercising and a calorie-controlled diet.
Sports Nutrition Supplements
If used properly they can provide a slight edge. For example if you exercise to lose weight, ephedra has been proven to aid in modest short-term weight loss(0.9kg/month). However its dangers have been discussed above.
If you are an athlete involved in explosive short busts like sprinting or weight lifting, creatine might work for you. Stop buying expensive pre-workout drinks because the only reason most of them work is because of the caffeine and sugar in them. As Kris Clark, PhD, RD, sports nutrition director at Penn State University put it: “You can get the same boost from a cup of coffee or an energy drink that are safe. ..”
Don’t waste your money on this one. Dairy products –which contrary to myth aid in losing weight if controlled-are great sources of calcium. Other sources are dark leafy greens, soybeans, beans, fish, and raisins.
If you insist on buying calcium supplements then get citrate and lactate because they are absorbed easier by the body.
There is no actual scientific proof that B vitamins decrease stress levels. If you are a senior citizen however then B-12 supplements are ok because older people absorb less of it from natural sources.
There is little proof that vitamin C can ward off colds or decrease its duration and intensity. There are plenty of fruits that are rich in vitamin C. Why the hell would you buy a vitamin C supplement.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
These two can be used separately or together to relieve mild to severe joint pains. Probably best used with some sort of pain-killer.
These are organ cleansers, like liver or kidney cleansers. If you want to detox consult your doctor and stop taking unnecessary risks.
Get enough sun exposure and eat cereals, salmon, and tuna. A glass of fortified milk to wash it all down. In countries where the sun is scarce it does no harm to reinforce your diet with a vitamin D supplement.
Salmon or mackerel twice a week should give you all the omega 3 you need. Other sources are canola oil, soybeans, flax, walnuts and algae but they are not as good.
If you can’t fit this into your diet then only get those supplements.