Sunday, 11 January 2015

Thoughts on Vitamin Supplements

I used to take various vitamin supplements every day - at times up to 20 or so pills! All in the name of health. However, when you look past all of the health claims based on questionable studies, and take into account that most pills don't contain what they advertise... you're left questioning whether taking vitamin supplements is even good for you.

My current conclusion:
Due to over-used soils, genetic modification, long produce transportation times and the drive of companies for quantity over quality many of us are vitamin deficient. However, instead of turning to vitamin supplements to maintain health, we should instead consume more super-foods & whole foods.

Foods like:
  • Cod liver oils for healthy fatty acids and Vitamin A and D
  • High quality butter from pasture fed cows for healthy fats and fat-soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Wheat germ oil for Vitamin E (sunflower seeds are a great source of Vitamin E too)
  • Nutritional yeast or bee pollen for many B Vitamins
  • Liver, for Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, etc.
  • Powdered rose hips, acerola berries, or amalaki for Vitamin C

Why whole foods over vitamin supplements?

In short: Because synthetic vitamins can be harmful to your health.

Long Answer: Synthetic vitamin supplements are simplified and highly concentrated, which the body is unable to digest and use as well as naturally occurring vitamins in complex compounds. For this reason, high doses of synthetic vitamins are often required, which may lead to biochemical imbalances and side-effects.

In addition, some Vitamin supplements only provide a single part of the (partly unknown) complex that makes up the Vitamin. This is the case for Vitamin C, in which the supplemental form only provides ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is actually a complex of nutrients including bioflavonoids, rutin, tyrosine, copper etc... The ascorbic acid functions as the preservative for this complex Vitamin. Taking only the ascorbic acid depletes the other compounds of Vitamin C... the exact opposite effect I'm sure you were hoping for.

Unexpected effects are also true for some other Vitamins:
Vitamin A is associated with reduced cancer risk, but supplementation of beta-carotene (a precursor) may increase risk of lung cancer.
Synthetic Vitamin D3 seems to have the opposite effect as naturally occurring Vitamin D2: D3 seems to soften bones and harden arteries.

So in general this just emphasizes the fact that you cannot compensate an unhealthy diet with Vitamin supplements. Focus on whole (unprocessed) foods, stock up on super-foods, and save the chocolate for an occasional treat.

Info from "The Fourfold Path to Healing" by Thomas S. Cowan, MD

<3 Jessica

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