Dietary Supplements & Vitamins
Expensive Pee. That’s what my professors call dietary supplements. And expensive they are. No wonder the supplement/vitamin business makes about 7 billion, yes, BILLION, dollars a year! And it’s only growing. But do dietary supplements really do what they claim on the bottle? How do we know that we are taking what is specified on the label when the formulas are not regulated by the FDA? This is a very controversial topic and one in which people feel very strongly about. You are either a supporter of dietary supplements and will spend the outrageous amounts of money to fuel the habit (or even possible placebo effect) or you don’t take them and disregard the hype. I would like to share what I know – some knowledge that I have learned in school and my personal beliefs on those little pills.
First and foremost, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, there is a lack of standardization and very little control over what is on the label versus the actual active ingredients in the vitamin. However, the United States Pharmacopeia does work with dietary supplement manufacturers to help standardize the quality of the product and place stringent rules and regulations on the manufacturers in regards to their health claim. But unfortunately this is a “voluntary” option and vitamin manufacturers do not have to comply with, and use, the USP services. That said, if you are going to purchase dietary supplements, make sure you choose a brand that has been approved by the USP.
I believe that if you are consuming a well-rounded, healthy diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein, you do not need a multi-vitamin supplement. You are going to get more bang for your buck buy purchasing these healthy foods than spending $50 on a multi-vitamin that some one at the grocery store told you was “good”. If you are hell-bent on taking a multi-vitamin, try to find a whole-food supplement (preferably in the powder or liquid form) and make sure it has the USP stamp.
- Vitamin D3 – This is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain calcium stores which keeps your bones and teeth strong. It also greatly reduces the instance of osteoporosis and osteomalacia in your adult life. Most people believe they get their Vitamin D from the sun, which is true, but there are many variables that may affect absorption and synthesis of Vitamin D from the sun such as cloud cover, sunscreen, melanin in the skin, clothing, etc. There is a huge emergence of research on the amazing benefits of supplementing your diet with this vitamin! Make sure to find a brand that is Vitamin D3 – the active form. I also would definitely recommend taking this in conjunction with calcium and magnesium if you do not regularly consume dairy products.
- Omega-3 -This heart healthy supplement has gained popularity most recently due to its’ wonderful benefits in decreasing LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Omega-3’s help improve mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, postpartum depression, and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, this powerful supplement has been found to decrease inflammation and help alleviate symptoms associated with allergies! :) I take my Omega-3 in pill and liquid form (I add flax oil to my smoothies) and I have to be honest….I have definitely seen a difference in my skin since starting supplementation.