Do You Need Nutritional Supplements?

by Brad

Do I need to take nutritional supplements if I'm eating healthy?

Today we’d like to share an article by Dr. Mark Hyman, a renowned practitioner on the forefront of Functional Medicine. Dr. Hyman’s books were instrumental in helping Kelli find relief from rheumatoid arthritis and we continue to be amazed at his knowledge and insight.

Sharing in Dr. Hyman’s experience, we are often asked about the need for supplements, especially when eating a high quality diet. We believe Dr. Hyman’s insights gained through experience as a practicing physician and researcher are so valuable that we want to share them with you in his own words.


Many people ask me whether or not they need nutritional supplements if they eat a healthy diet. The next question that almost inevitably comes up is what they should take and where they can get high-quality supplements. Today, I’d like to bring some light to this issue, outline what I recommend most people take, and explain what is currently being offered in the Healthy Living Store.

In a perfect world, no one would need supplements. But given the stress of our modern life, the poor quality of our food supply, and the high load of toxins on our brains and bodies, most of us need a basic daily supply of the raw materials for all our enzymes and biochemistry to run as designed.

Most people don’t understand the role of vitamins and minerals in our bodies. I certainly didn’t when I finished medical training. I thought if we just had enough to prevent us from some horrible deficiency state like scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), then you didn’t have to worry about how much you were getting. I also thought that if you ate “enriched food” like white flour with a few vitamins added back in, or milk with vitamin D added in, additional vitamin supplementation was a waste.

What most people don’t realize is the same thing I was unaware of when I first started practicing medicine: The real reason our food supply must be “enriched” is because it is has be so processed that it is “impoverished” to start with.

Today, even with our “enriched food,” over 92 percent of Americans are deficient in one or more vitamins. That doesn’t mean they are receiving less than the amount they need for optimal health. That means they receive less than the MINIMUM amount necessary to prevent deficiency diseases.

In a study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers found that 6 percent of those tested had serious vitamin C deficiency and 30 percent were borderline low.(i) A report in the journal Pediatrics found obesity and malnutrition coexisting. Obese, overfed, and undernourished children with cognitive disorders were found to have scurvy and severe vitamin D deficiency or rickets. These deficiencies damage our children’s bodies and brains.(ii) You never think of an overweight person as malnourished, but they are!

A USDA survey showed that 37 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin C, 70 percent not enough vitamin E, almost 75 percent don’t get enough zinc, and 40 percent don’t get enough iron.(iii) I would say 100 percent of us don’t have enough of the basic nutrients to create optimal health or give ourselves a metabolic tune up.

The foods you eat no longer contain the nutrient levels you require for optimal health for many reasons. Crops are raised in soil where nutrients have been depleted. Plants are treated with pesticides and other chemicals so they no longer have to fight to live, which further diminishes their nutrient levels and their phytonutrient content (not to mention the toxic exposure you receive from such chemicals). Animals are cooped up in pens or giant feedlots instead of roaming free eating the nutrient-rich wild grains and grasses they once consumed. Since cow’s stomachs are adapted to grass instead of corn, they must take antibiotics to prevent them from exploding.

To complicate this further all of us are exposed to hazardous toxins and chemicals that poison our bodies, we live with too much stress, we don’t sleep enough, we don’t exercise enough, and we are inflamed making the nutritional demands on our bodies even heavier. Those with chronic illnesses are in even worse shape.

Avoiding Disease Versus Giving Yourself a Metabolic Tune Up

Ultimately, the question is not how much of a certain nutrient or vitamin you need to avoid illness, but how much you need to be optimally healthy! Dr. Robert Heaney, one of the world’s leading vitamin D researchers, in a recent groundbreaking editorial in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about the delayed (yet very serious) consequences of taking LESS than the optimal amounts of nutrients for life said that “because the current [vitamin] recommendations are based on the prevention of the [deficiency] disease only, they can no longer be said to be biologically defensible. The pre-agricultural human diet … may well be a better starting point for policy. The burden of proof should fall on those who say that these more natural conditions are not needed and that lower intakes [of nutrients] are safe.”

In today’s world everyone needs a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement. The research is overwhelming on this point.(iv) My own experience as a practitioner corresponds to what the research tells us. I have tested for vitamin and nutrient deficiencies in thousands of patients and found that by correcting them people feel better, improve their mood, mental sharpness, memory and ability to focus, as well as have more energy, resolve chronic health complaints or conditions and even lose weight. Taking supplements also helps prevent disease.

The basic vitamin recommendations outlined below include nutrients that form the backbone for proper optimal biological function, robust health, and healthy aging. These nutrients work as a team and the basic workhorse team outlined below should be taken by everyone.

You may ask: What about the research that says supplements don’t work? I’d like to shed some light on that question as well.

Studies showing nutrients have no benefit were either done with single nutrients or synthetic non-bio-identical forms of the nutrients. If you just take high doses of a single nutrient like beta-carotene (normally part of hundreds of dietary carotenoids and antioxidants), you may not acquire the desired effect or problems may arise. Think about it this way: Broccoli is good for you, but that doesn’t mean that eating broccoli alone for a year is good for you. In fact it may kill you!

Nutrients are not drugs and they don’t work as drugs do. They work with your biology by supporting normal enzyme function and biochemical reactions. Medications block or interfere with normal function. Studying medications and nutrients using the same methods doesn’t make scientific sense.

Additional supplements may help people with specific imbalances or provide added support for certain times in our life cycle where needs for some nutrients are increased—during pregnancy for example.

The products and supplement kits available in my Healthy Living Store have been chosen to offer the support needed to create good health. I want to explain why taking high-quality supplements is essential.

Not all Supplements are Created Equally

It is important to find safe, high-quality, and effective nutritional supplement products. Be aware that all brands are not created equally. Quality is up to the manufacturer because of limited regulations regarding manufacturing. Certain companies are more careful about quality, sourcing of raw materials, consistency of dose from batch to batch, the use of active forms of nutrients, not using fillers, additives, colorings, etc. When choosing supplements it is important that you choose quality products.

However, finding the best products to support health can be a difficult task. The lack of adequate government regulations, the dizzying number of products on the market, and the large variations in quality all create a minefield of obstacles for anyone trying to find the right supplement, vitamin, or herb.

While I do not officially endorse or have any consulting or employee relationship with any supplement companies, I do believe a few have risen to the top of the supplement industry and can be safely used to help support and enhance your health. When choosing supplements, make sure to consider the following factors:

  • Manufacturers who use GMP (good manufacturing practices) or the equivalent.
  • Third-party analysis for independent verification of active ingredients and contaminants.
  • Products that have some basis in basic science, clinical trials, or have a long history of use and safety.
  • Use of clean products, free of harmful preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, and lactose and other allergens.

Each of the supplements in my online store abides by these standards. That may mean we charge a little more than other retail outlets, but when you buy supplements from The Healthy Living Store you can be assured you are getting the best quality available.

Here’s My Basic Plan of Supplementation. I can honestly tell you that I would find it difficult to practice medicine without the assistance of these important nutritional supplements. They’ve made a phenomenal difference in how my patients look, feel, and in what they’re able to accomplish.

Multivitamin: Many multivitamins include the basic minerals and vitamins you need, but only a very few of them include the specific nutrients that have been proven effective in helping to control blood sugar. These nutrients include:

    Biotin: Keeping your cholesterol and triglyceride levels healthy is made easier with biotin. Biotin also helps you to preserve good glucose metabolism.

    Magnesium: Diets that are low in magnesium are often associated with increased insulin levels, so supplementing with it is a smart thing to do. Please note, however, that if you have kidney or heart disease you should consult with your doctor before taking magnesium.

    Alpha Lipoic Acid: Proven to help keep blood sugar levels healthy, alpha lipoic acid is one of the most powerful antioxidants available to us.

    Chromium: Chromium does an excellent job of helping you to maintain proper sugar metabolism.

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA): These popular nutrients can help you maintain healthy insulin sensitivity while also helping to avoid excessive inflammation and cholesterol levels. But because they’re so popular, the marketplace is full of omega-3 fatty acid products and finding the right one for you can be challenging. The multivitamins I recommend include what I believe are the best and most effective omega-3’s available today.

    Cinnamon: Cinnamon is an important herb that has the amazing ability to naturally help keep your blood sugar under control.

    Green Tea Catechins (ECGC): You’ve probably heard a lot of good things about green tea in recent years, and some of it is true! ECGC can help keep your body’s fat burning process and metabolism in check.

In addition to the right multivitamin, I also encourage you to take:

Vitamin D3: It’s suggested that up to 80% of people worldwide are living with a vitamin D deficiency. That’s why, unless it’s included in your multivitamin, I suggest that everyone supplement with it. Yet while most doctors suggest you take vitamin D2, I don’t. I recommend vitamin D3 because it’s more easily absorbed in your body and has the added advantage of being able to help you prevent diabesity. I provide full details on vitamin D3, as well as ordering information, at store.bloodsugarsolution.com.

Protein Shake Powder: A protein shake can be the perfect breakfast or afternoon snack. And, when filled with high-quality, hypoallergenic rice, pea, hemp, chia, or soy protein powder, it’s a delicious way to keep your blood sugar balanced and to support detoxification.

PGX: PGX is a fiber created from very viscous Japanese root and, combined with seaweed. It’s claim to fame is its remarkable ability to help keep your insulin, glucose, and hemoglobin A1c levels healthy. It also reduces the absorption of sugars and fats in your bloodstream and helps control appetite, weight loss, blood sugar, and cholesterol. When taken before meals with a glass of water, it can be a critical component to overcoming diabesity.

When you visit the Healthy Living Store you’ll get additional information about these supplements and, to make things easy for you, you can also order them directly from the site.

References

(i) Hampl, J.S., Taylor, C.A., and C.S. Johnston. 2004. Vitamin C deficiency and depletion in the United States: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994. Am J Public Health. 94(5): 870–5.
(ii) Noble, J.M., Mandel, A., and M.C. Patterson. 2007. Scurvy and rickets masked by chronic neurologic illness: revisiting “psychologic malnutrition”. Pediatrics. 119(3): e783–90
(iii) Ames, B.N. 2004. A role for supplements in optimizing health: the metabolic tune-up. Arch Biochem Biophys. 423(1): 227–34. Review.
(iv) Kaplan, B.J., Crawford, S.G., Field, C.J., and J.S. Simpson. 2007. Vitamins, minerals, and mood. Psychol Bull. 133(5): 747–60.

About the author...

 discovered the benefits of natural food when he watched a loved one go from poor health to full well-being after adapting a clean food diet. Such an event opened his eyes to the power of clean foods and fueled his motivation to help others eat the best way possible for their body.

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