What's in Your Vitamin? Get the Scoop on Supplements

By  | 

May 8, 2012 -

Everyone seems to have their own opinion when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of supplements. After doing a little research I found that the science behind how supplements interact with our bodies is not completely understood. But we do know some information that might help you decide if supplements are for you!

The hottest magazine headline power-food seems to constantly change. One article claims putting sauerkraut on your hot dog prevents heart attacks. Another says that turmeric in mustard strengthens bones. A hot dog loaded with mustard and sauerkraut gives you a healthy heart and strong bones? I think we're missing something here.

Dr. Michael Ormsbee tells us "If a headline is too good to be true, it generally is. See if there's any research to actually support the products."

Many people have poor dietary habits. Experts say supplements like fish oil, protein powder, and multivitamins can fill in nutritional gaps.
Some people take their vitamin religiously, every day. But there are others who prefer to get their nutrition from whole food sources. So what's better?

To find the answer, I picked the brains of these three guys: Ryan Keller, Dr. Tim Logan, and Dr. Mike Ormsbee. According to Ryan Keller, people take supplements because they "always want to be bigger faster stronger." Dr. Michael Ormsbee adds that people take supplements "to increase health, well-being, and performance. "

Now WHO should take a supplement?

1-Are you ALREADY a healthy eater looking for extra healthy habits to pick up? Keller tells us that "It's gotta be proper diet, proper exercise, um you know, plenty of sleep." Dr. Ormsbee adds, "If that's assumed, then someone may want to supplement to have any kind of additional benefit." Keller goes on to explain that "supplements are maybe that last little one to five percent that really helps you out."

2-Are you pregnant or in a lactation period? During these periods, "your needs change, and even if you're eating a proper diet, supplementation might be necessary to have the proper levels," explains Ormsbee.

3-Do you have a medical condition? Ask your physician if you should supplement.

4-Are you an athlete or active person? Dr. Ormsbee tells us that "If someone wants to optimize performance on an athletic field they can supplement with very specific ingredients to try to increase performance."

This all seems like good stuff! Now let's take out the magnifying glass to check the fine print. A main problem with supplements is overuse! Keller explains that "people tend to think 'well if I'm taking this much then twice as much is twice as good,' and that's usually not the case." The serving size provides the maximum effective dose.
"It's hard for people to follow that," says Keller.

Life is about balance. Yeah, yeah, so cliche! Here's why this cliche is important. Dr. Ormsbee tells us that "with the everyday vitamins and minerals you can have issues with taking too much and having some toxicity." This is common with fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Also, your organs can be overworked from processing too many supplements. So the solution? In the words of Dr. Timothy Logan,
"Just keep it balanced!"

Regulation is another issue with supplements. Dr. Ormsbee tells us that "It is regulated, to a large degree, just a little bit differently than foods and drugs. You can put a supplement to market before it's evaluated by the FDA." Vitamins have fillers in them to make the ingredients stick together, and easy to digest and swallow. There's a concern over what fillers might be in supplements that have not been tested yet. Dr. Timothy Logan says, "If no one is really looking at what's going in there, then they don't have to be as careful about what goes in there." Here's a way around the problem. "A couple of independent companies are now testing these and putting labels on the product. Consumer labs, USP, and the NSF are certification labels on products," says Dr. Ormsbee.

These guys seem to know their stuff so I asked them to recommend supplements we might want to use. "Caffeine has been shown to have endurance benefits. Multivitamins can fill in some holes." says Keller. "Creatine is another sports supplement product which has been shown time and time again to work. You'll see things like fish oil becoming very popular now," says Dr. Ormsbee. This can help with cardiovascular health, and improve your muscle to fat ratio.

"Another one that's really hot right now is beta alanine. Over the last five years it has tremendous amount of evidence showing it does support high intensity burst type activity," explains Dr. Ormsbee.

What's your opinion on supplements? Comment on this story and let us know!