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Sunday, September 9, 2012
Avoid Supplements & The People Who Push Them
by Randall Phelps
It seems as if we are constantly being bombarded with advertisementsfor the latest dietary supplements: "Amazing new herbs boost athleticperformance!," "Take these antioxidants to prevent cancer!," "Specialprotein formulation yields maximum muscle growth!," "Alleviate yourailments with new super-absorbable vitamins!," or "Lose weight withbreakthrough discovery!” We are then told that some ingenious doctorhas discovered the miracle substance that will make us thinner, stronger,smarter, or better at whatever we do. Best of all, we are told, thissupplement works without any real effort and has absolutely no sideeffects. All we have to do is dig deep into our pockets, hand over ourmoney, and then swallow the miraculous elixirs.Additionally, doctors and many health and fitness magazines would haveus believe that without the benefits of supplemental vitamins, minerals,amino acids, herbs, botanicals or some concentrate, extract or mixture ofthese, it is not possible to succeed with our health and fitness goals.Even the die-hard skeptic may find himself wondering if he should take asulfur-based supplement for the worn cartilage in his knees, or the latestgreen powder for his receding hairline.So, are we to assume these products are safe and effective? Should wetake them as "insurance" against deficiencies, as many do? In manycases, no one really knows. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationdoes not check on the safety or effectiveness of dietary supplementsbefore they are put on the market. The FDA must wait until it receivesreports of problems caused by a supplement before it can investigateand ban it. This process can take years. Meanwhile, those who takedietary supplements are volunteering, even paying, to be themanufacturer's guinea pigs at the risk of their own health.Each supplement is taken for specific reasons, and while some ailmentsmay improve, the side effects and nutritional imbalances eventuallymake them "detriments" instead of "supplements," as Dr. DouglasGraham, President of Healthful Living International, has said.What side effects? According to the New England Journal of Medicine,lead poisoning, impotence, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, andabnormal heart rhythms top the list of disorders resulting from takingpowerful herbs and vitamin pills. These supplements often contain toxiccontaminants and even potent drugs and hormones in products that are
labeled as "all natural" and "drug free". In one study, 83 of 260supplement samples were found to contain poisonous heavy metalssuch as lead, arsenic or mercury, or drugs not listed on the label. All ofthis doesn't even begin to take into account the long-term nutritionalimbalances that are inevitably created by favoring certain nutrients inabnormally heavy doses.In spite of all these problems, according to a 2002 survey, 75% ofAmerican adults are confident in the safety, quality, and effectiveness ofdietary supplements, and 94% of consumers trust doctors or other healthcare professionals for reliable information on supplements.Health experts agree that the best way to get all the nutrients you need isto get them from your foods, as has been done from time immemorial.Nutrients must be present in specific, complex ratios with other nutrientsin order to perform their functions. Too much of one nutrient will interferewith the effectiveness of another nutrient or may even build up to toxiclevels in body fat. There are many more substances in our foods besidesthose that we have managed to name, measure, and isolate. Thosenutrients that we have not discovered are already present in our foods, just waiting to synergistically interact with just the right proportion of othernutrients to nourish our bodies optimally.Our nutritional needs are easily met by basing our diet on fresh fruit,green vegetables, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. These freshorganic foods most closelymirror the nutrient ratios that ourbodies thrive on. Anything lessthan whole foods disrupts ourbodies' nutritional balance toour long-term detriment, even ifit does help one specific ailmentshort-term.Now is the time to decide. Arewe going to be gullible guineapigs supporting supplementcompanies, on the gamble that we will somehow benefit, or should wetrust in the time-tested science of natural history?
Randall Phelps studied at Heidelberg College and New Mexico State University and has been competing as a runner and triathlete for over 20 years. His supplement-free diet has evolved through many years of study and experimentation