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Health and nutritional supplements
Use of nutritional supplements is more popular than ever. As people are becoming aware of the health significance of nutrients, it becomes more obvious that optimizing nutritional intake with food supplements will improve their health.
If so, why all the commotion and confusion about dietary supplementation? Some supposedly informed sources state that self-supplementation will do you more harm than good, while others swear that you are doomed if you don't do it. Who should you trust?
Politics of nutrition aside, no one serious will argue against supplementing the diet, provided - as with anything else - that
you know what you are doing.
Your body is a bio-chemical factory of unimaginable complexity; at any given moment, thousands of chemical reactions are taking place inside it, many of them directly or indirectly depending on each other. No computer in the world is sophisticated enough to synchronize and maintain this process - a task that your brain seems to be carrying out effortlessly from one moment to another.
This flow of life requires
constant, complete and balanced intake of nutrients.
The problem is - you just don't know specifically which ones, when and in what quantity. Reliable diagnostic tests (NOT the standard serum blood test) can give useful guidance, but it is still far from a complete picture, and still leaves plenty of room for guesswork. Without tests, you are pretty much clueless. Considering the number of nutrients and processes they perpetuate and affect in your highly individual metabolic process, your chances of having positive impact on your health with randomly selected supplements are about as good as to get to work safely driving blindfolded.
Longer-term higher doses of randomly selected nutrients are much more likely to result in nutritional imbalances,
causing health problems down the road,
rather than to protect you, or bring relief.
Good example is the ongoing calcium craze. Stuffing yourself with calcium without knowing your calcium body levels (serum calcium is not reliable indicator), nor your individual efficiency of calcium absorption and utilization is inviting trouble. Putting aside that you may not need calcium supplementation if your diet is balanced (no excess protein, sugar, phosphates, etc.), excessive calcium intake without adequate increase in intake of the key nutrients needed for its absorption and use (vitamin D, zinc, copper, boron and magnesium, among others) will prevent your body from efficiently using it, and put you at the
increased risk of calcifying your blood vessels (cardiovascular disease factor) and other soft tissues (arthritis, kidney disease)
instead of your bones.
And if you add, say, extra vitamin D -especially its synthetic form, D2 - you risk vitamin D toxicity (because it gets stored by the body). If you add significant magnesium supplementation, you risk lowered stomach acid (which also can be caused by high calcium intake alone). Low stomach acid can, in turn, cause lower absorption of other nutrients, like iron, vitamin B12, or manganese (while calcium and magnesium absorption remains unaffected), digestive problems and development of new deficiencies.
In short, your health could be more, not less endangered.
Another problem with health supplements is that their quality - measured by their actual active contents, their bioavailability and degree of contamination - can vary widely from one to another. While you can reduce the risk of buying inferior product by avoiding the cheapest ones, it still
doesn't guarantee that you are getting a quality supplement.
It is always a good idea to contact the manufacturer and obtain additional information on the supplement you are interested in. Then do your own little research, to find out how it all adds up.
If you can't get useful information on the product, or - worse yet - can't contact the supplement's manufacturer at all, it is better to pass it.
Assuming that you use quality dietary supplements, how healthful they are depends mainly on how you use them. There are three possibilities.
● Random selective supplementation is not likely to benefit you, but can easily compromise your health.
● Broad-spectrum balanced supplementation is generally beneficial, but not likely to correct existing serious nutritional imbalances resulting from poor eating habits or health condition.
However, always remember that the best possible form of nutritional and health supplementation is just that: supplement to your diet. No supplementation can compensate for grossly imbalanced, poor diet, or unhealthy lifestyle.