Drugs Or Supplements; Which Do You Need? Part II


There are many reasons to take supplements: 1) Modern commercial agricultural methods leave soil deficient in essential nutrients. Food animals are raised in conditions that leave them unhealthy and nutritionally deficient. 2) Many foods are shipped long distances and stored for lengthy periods, resulting in nutrient depletion. 3) Food processing, cooking and preserving can reduce nutritional content in foods. 4) Many crops are genetically bred to improve visual appeal and crop yields, not nutritional value, which can result in lower nutritional quality. 5) Many medications deplete nutrients. 6) Various illnesses and health conditions as well as particular times in life (pregnancy, aging, etc.) result in increased needs for certain nutrients. 7) Rising levels of environmental pollution in air, water, and food can cause our bodies to use more nutrients than normal to eliminate toxic substances-8) Refined, over-processed, toxin-containing nonfoods low or devoid of real nutrition make up a good part of what many people consume, creating nutritional debt. 9) Nonfoods (especially those with residues of pesticides, hormones, or drugs), stress and various medications can lead to poor digestion, making it difficult to extract nutrients from food. 10) Food intolerances further affect absorption.

Research Validates Supplementation

Research indicates that supplements can be valuable, but certain forms are of little or no value; sometimes they are even detrimental. Yet, in contrast to the 100,000 or more North Americans who die each year due to adverse reactions to drugs, there was not even one death reported in 2008, 2009 and 2010 from taking dietary supplements including herbs. Over a 27 -year period, supplements have been alleged to have caused 11 deaths in the US. Intentional and accidental misuse can cause adverse effects, but even if the 11 deaths were caused by supplements, the number of fatalities is glaringly low compared to those caused by drugs. But an analysis of the data revealed there was no 'Relative Contribution to Fatality'-insufficient information to make a clear-cut declaration of cause. Assertions that supplements caused the deaths were not evidence-based.

Some Supplements May Be Harmful

Still, some supplements are found to contain potentially harmful substances such as: 1) Detectable mercury, lead, cadmium or arsenic. 2) Prescription drugs; for example, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) and fenproporex (converted in the body to an amphetamine). 3) Other ingredients such as carnauba wax, talc, dyes, methylcellulose, sodium benzoate, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide (classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans) and other artificial and potentially toxic substances. 4) High-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oil, modified food starch, and other questionable items. 5) Adulteration of raw materials; for example, commercial grapefruit seed extract, touted as an antimicrobial agent, got this ability from the addition of synthetic industrial disinfectants like triclosan, bensalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, parabens. 6) Presently, 60% of ingredients used in US supplements come from China, 13% from Europe, 12% from the US,
10% from Japan, and 5% from other areas. Questions exist about sources, processing, and contaminants.

Minerals Are Critical

Minerals in supplements are often from nonfood sources. Some may be toxic. A carcinogenic form of chromium (hexavalent chromium), for example, is used in some supplements. Selenium may be listed as sodium selenite or sodium selenate (a byproduct of copper metal refining which is 4 times more lethal than sodium cyanide). Both compounds are classified as dangerous and toxic to the environment. Selenium in real foods is very different from these chemical forms. Sodium selenite/selenate can, for example, cause cancer but selenium in food helps prevent and overcome cancer. You wouldn't want to get chromium by licking your chrome bathroom fixtures, yet this is the same principle as using a nonfood chemical as a nutrient. Also, supplements may not contain the amounts of 'nutrients' that the manufacturers claim. Some contain less of a 'nutrient' than claimed on the label; some contain more (sometimes exceeding daily tolerable upper intake levels). What constitutes a 'nutrient' may also differ. Tests on products labeled "natural" vitamin E revealed that in some brands, it's 8 tocopherols and tocotrionals; for others it's only alpha-tocopherol; for still others, it's synthetic vitamin E. Adverse reactions do occur, usually from high doses of an isolated or synthetic 'nutrient' or inter-actions with drugs. "The potential for toxicity is well documented in the research literature," says Joseph Pizzorno, NO. In 2010, the FDA established new good-manufacturing practices for supplements-they should be produced in a quality manner, be free of contaminants or impurities, and be accurately labeled. But the FDA doesn't have the budget or people to adequately increase inspections or monitor compliance. Some companies, like Standard Process, Inc, had already and continues to meet and surpass these requirements. Source Material Matters

There are huge differences between isolated or synthetic chemicals and whole food nutrients. But many people think a vitamin is a vitamin, one form of a mineral is the same as any other. Most health experts agree that whole natural foods are far better for you than refined or fake foods. Why would this change when it comes to supplements of refined or imitation chemicals? It doesn't. Real food supplements are concentrated whole foods. Their nutrients are not isolated, not from nonfood sources, not synthetic. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of nutrients, enzymes, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered components working together synergistically to enable the collective whole to do its job in your body. Isolated nutrients are never found by themselves in nature-they're dismembered. Synthetic nutrients are human-constructed imitations. When you take isolated or synthetic-nutrients regularly, especially 'high potency' types, it's more like taking drugs. They won't benefit your body like high quality food and food-concentrate supplements. They can cause problems. Studies show that your body treats these isolated and/or synthetic nutrients as foreign substances. Your body tries to flush out as much of these foreign substances as possible, particularly through urine. Any remaining remnant of an isolated nutrient must be combined with other nutrients that are normally part of its complex in food in order to work (though to a lesser degree) in the body. Since your body takes these extra nutrients from its stored supplies, a deficiency in these extra nutrients often results.


Some studies report positive results for supplements of isolated and/or synthetic 'nutrients.' As most studies are designed to look for drug-like effects, the 'benefit' is often pharmacological, not nutritional. Many studies have disappointing results. A systematic review of 63 randomized controlled trials showed no statistically significant benefit for isolated and synthetic 'nutrients studied. Also, too often study designs have flaws and/or the media reports findings incorrectly. There seems to be a campaign to discredit supplements while promoting drugs. For instance, a 2010 study reported that omega-3 fatty acids don't benefit cardiovascular health. Participants were given 4 teaspoons daily of margarine with EPAlDHA, ALA (omega-3s), both, or neither. The margarine, referred to as a placebo, contained trans fats, known to harm the cardiovascular system. A meta-analysis looked at 67 clinical trials on beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, or selenium supplements. The researchers found "significantly increased mortality" among people taking vitamin A, beta-carotene, or vitamin E; but they ignored 405 clinical trials because no deaths had occurred in those studies, and omitted many other important published papers. Also, the researchers stated that the nutrients "significantly increased mortality"-but risk ratios of 1.04 (for vitamin E) and 1.07 (for beta-carotene) are not significant-they're essentially null findings. A 2011 study concluded that supplements increase the mortality rate in older women. Actual death rates were not reported, only statistically adjusted death rates of supplement users compared to non-users. Since supplement-takers were in a healthier category for each adjustment area, the researchers over-adjusted the supplement-users death rates because of their overall better health, skewing the results. When the data were adjusted only for age and caloric intake, there was no statistically significant difference in death rate between the two groups. A study linked vitamin E use to increased risk of prostate cancer. Not only was synthetic alpha tocopherol used, but the study was not designed to assess the relationship between vitamin E and prostate cancer. In this study, there were 1.6 cases of prostate cancer per 1,000 person-years-hardly a "significantly increased risk of prostate cancer."

Some studies legitimately find problems with isolated or synthetic 'nutrients.' Beta-carotene by itself brings no benefit in lung-cancer prevention, but foods containing carotenes do. Isolated or synthetic vitamin E does not benefit cardiovascular health though food sources do. Vitamin B12 on its own doesn't help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, though people with Alzheimer's have low B12 levels. Isolated and synthetic vitamins E (alpha-tocopherol) and C (ascorbic acid) don't benefit cancer, cardiovascular disease, or bio-markers linked to Alzheimer's. Lycopene, one carotenoid, doesn't help prostate cancer, yet foods containing lycopene are preventive. Supplementation with isolated nonfood calcium does not show beneficial effects on serum lipids or body composition (fat/lean mass) even though calcium-containing foods are helpful. Two analyses of past studies found that taking large doses of calcium supplements slightly increases risk of heart attack and stroke. Inorganic, isolated calcium, when not bound to its natural co-factors found in food, "does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food," says Sabine Rohrmann, MD. High doses of isolated calcium (especially if taken without food) increase the risk of certain kinds of kidney stones. But foods naturally rich in calcium protect against kidney stones. Any nutrient taken by itself is not only unnatural, it's unbalanced. Magnesium, for example, is one calcium companion. Magnesium helps prevent and alleviate some effects of heart attacks. Calcium without magnesium creates a relative deficit of bodily magnesium. Too much of any single separated nutrient creates relative deficits of other nutrients, notably nutrients that normally appear with it in food. But scientists try to identify 'the' active ingredient in a food that works in a certain manner in the body, seeking a drug effect. Supplements using a broccoli extract-separating out "key phytonutrients" like erucin and sulforaphane don't offer the same benefits as the vegetables themselves. Not only are some ingredients missing, but the synergy is lost. It's like hearing only 1 note of 1 musical instrument in a symphony.