NutritionFacts.org

supplements

Contrary to the claims of many sellers of supplements (including bad advice from health food stores), we should strive to get most of our nutrients from produce not pills, though there are rare diseases that require supplementation.

There are tens of thousands of phytonutrients in plants that can display synergistic effects and have not been successfully isolated efficaciously in supplement form. For example iron, which is important during pregnancy, may be harmful in pill form. Similarly, folate in beans and greens is preferable to folic acid in pills. Flax seed, but not flax seed oil, lowers cholesterol. Citrulline supplements may aid erectile dysfunction, but a better source is watermelon. Similarly, eating soy foods, rather than taking soy supplements, may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. And it is whole produce, not pills, which has been shown to increase physical attractiveness.

However, for those on plant-based diets, there are two vitamins not produced by plants that may require supplementation. They are vitamin D from sun but not from tanning beds (see also here, here, here, here, here, here, here) and vitamin B12 (see also here, here, here, here, here). Among vegans, B12 deficiency is an epidemic if no supplements are used, which can have devastating consequences for their infants (see also here). Vegetarian’s myelopathy is a syndrome coined to describe vitamin B12 decficiency, which can result in paralysis. Another nutrient vegans should keep an eye on is iodine, which is especially important during pregnancy (though harmful in too too great quantities).

One of the most commonly used supplements is fish oil. It has been found to contain DDT as well as other industrial pollutants, including high levels of dioxin, PCBs and mercury (which are neural and cardiac toxins). This includes distilled fish oil, cod liver oil and those labeled ‘Toxin-Free’. Instead, there are safe plant sources of omega-3; alternatives include algae and yeast derived EPA and DHA, which also lower inflammation.

While there are some harmless vitamin supplements such as vitamin C and Airborne supplements, others may do more harm than good, such as multivitamins, which may actually increase breast and prostate cancer risk, and antioxidant vitamin supplements such as Vitamin E that may shorten one’s lifespan.

A variety of other potentially harmful supplements exist including: Herbalife (for its liver toxicity, possibly due to vitamin A), Juice Plus+ (which is really just another vitamin supplement), glyconutrient supplements, lutein pills, creatine, copper supplements (which may contribute to Alzheimer’s), zinc gel, kombucha tea, noni juice, and rice bran. Ayurvedic medicine (see also here) has been found to contain lead. Spirulina and blue-green algae supplements may contain neurotoxins and/or liver toxins (a safer alternative is chlorella).

See also the related blog posts: Vitamin D: Shedding some light on the new recommendations, Multivitamins and Mortality, Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective

Topic summary contributed by Eitan.
To help out on the site, email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Watch videos about supplements

  • Clinical Studies on Acai Berries
    Clinical Studies on Acai Berries
    An independent review of the effects of açaí berries was recently published, including studies on immune function, arthritis, and metabolic parameters.
  • Is Vitamin D3 Better Than D2?
    Is Vitamin D3 Better Than D2?
    Vitamin D3, sourced from sunlight exposure, animal, and plant sources may be preferable to vitamin D2 sourced from fungi.
  • Does Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s?
    Does Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s?
    Though there have been more than a thousand papers published on coconut oil in medical journals, there is little evidence it helps with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?
    Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?
    Even vegetarians could potentially be exposed to the carcinogens typically formed by cooking meat through eggs, cheese, creatine sports supplements, and cigarette smoke.
  • Potassium and Autoimmune Disease
    Potassium and Autoimmune Disease
    Plant-based diets appear to decrease inflammation via a variety of mechanisms, including boosting our adrenal gland function due to the consumption of potassium rich foods.
  • Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
    Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds
    The spice fenugreek appears to significantly improve muscle strength and weight lifting power output while possessing anti-cancer properties in vitro.
  • Gerson-style Therapy vs. Chemotherapy
    Gerson-style Therapy vs. Chemotherapy
    For decades, studies on Gerson therapy for cancer have questioned its safety and efficacy, but what does the latest head-to-head trial of a Gerson-style regime versus chemotherapy for pancreatic...
  • Gerson Therapy for Cancer
    Gerson Therapy for Cancer
    Gerson Therapy is a largely diet-based alternative treatment for cancer. What have 65 years of medical research concluded about its efficacy and safety?
Page 5 of 16« First...34567...10...Last »