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To supplement or to not supplement?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The pursuit of longevity is a common trend amongst us humans. We will do anything to be healthier, feel better and live to a ripe old age. So much so, that most of us have been popping vitamin and mineral supplements without even thinking about what they contain, what their possible side-effects are or whether we actually need to take them. Doctors seem to be divided on this question; some say they’re a waste of money and dangerous, while others believe that they do provide health benefits.

There are those that argue the valid point that people living in modern times have a harder time getting all the minerals and vitamins that they need from what they eat. The reason for this is that modern people are too “busy” to eat well-balanced meals and often opt for ready-made, microwavable alternatives. Our lifestyles in modern society also make us get sick more often:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much stress
  • Excessive exposure to toxins (like pollution)
  • Obsessed with hygiene (killing even healthy bacteria)
  • Eating snack in front of the TV (this leads to heart disease)

It is for the above reasons that some doctors do recommend taking some supplements as they can fill gaps in your diet. These doctors believe that calcium can enhance bone health and that Vitamin D can help with the absorption of said calcium. Last mentioned doctors say that Vitamin C and Vitamin E serve as good antioxidants and recommend that pregnant women should take Iron and that all women of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms of folic acid. They also say that B12 is good for nerve and blood cell health, that fish oil promotes heart health and that Vitamin A enhances immunity.[1]

On the other side there are doctors that believe that taking supplements can be dangerous. They have not all been tested, especially not for the safe use by babies and pregnant women. There is also the opinion that because these supplements are artificial, your body does not recognize it and thus cannot absorb it, these supplements are then stored in fat or excreted in urine[2].

There is no clear answer on whether it is really worth it to take supplements. The best advice would be to try to eat balanced meals every day and to consult your doctor on whether you need anything extra that you are not getting from your food.