Building a Case for Nutritional Supplements

By Michael A. Smith, MD

It’s true that ideally, we should be getting the essential nutrients we need from food. An organic-based diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables should be enough to keep us healthy. Unfortunately, for the overwhelming majority of us, it’s not.

Sure, relying exclusively on food may keep you from developing vitamin deficiencies, but a dietary approach alone is not going to come close to optimizing your health.

In this post, we’ll look at just a few of the reasons we believe supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals is a smart move. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should be taking supplements yourself, this post is for you.

Reason #1: Poor Soil Conditions Equal Less Nutritious Food

Dr. Bernard Jensen was a world-renowned clinical nutritionist who once said that a tomato today is not the same as a tomato from 100 years ago. What he was referring to is the poor conditions of our soil in this day and age.

The first U.S. soil surveys were completed in the 1920s. They all concluded that our soil was depleted of key nutrients like nitrates and carbonates. These soil nutrients are necessary for the growth of healthy crops and ultimately, nutrient-dense food. And that was way back in the 1920s.

So what’s been done since then to improve the conditions of our soil? Well, not much. In the 1930s and 40s, following the Great Dust Bowl, farmers planted soy to reinvigorate top soil. This helped to some extent but certainly not to the degree needed.

Since then, farmers have had to incorporate chemicals into the soil to rapidly improve growth potential. And while this may help to grow crops, it doesn’t necessarily grow healthy crops. The natural conclusion then would be to look toward organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Although we believe that organic produce would be a healthier choice in terms of pesticides, it doesn’t ensure that you’ll be eating nutrient-rich food. Why? Because organic soil is just as devoid of nutrients as chemically treated soil is.

The bottom line is this: Poor soil produces poor crops, and poor crops produce nutrient-depleted food.

Reason #2: Extra Protection Against our Increasingly Toxic Environment

We live in an increasingly toxic environment these days. Chemical toxins from the air, water and soil all help to create a destructive, oxidative environment inside of us. Most of these environmental toxins are highly reactive oxygen molecules that build up over time, creating what’s called oxidative stress. As a matter of fact, oxidative stress is one of the leading theories behind aging itself.

Antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress. Our bodies intrinsically synthesize some antioxidants, but most of them come from dietary sources, like dark-colored fruits and vegetables. However, once again, this brings us back to the condition of our soil. Can we rely solely on dietary sources of antioxidants given the fact that crops around the world are producing nutrient-poor foods?

So how can we increase our intake of antioxidants? The answer is (you guessed it) … supplements. A high-quality antioxidant formula can offer protection to help counter the effects our toxic environment — something that food alone cannot easily provide these days.

Reason #3: Supplements Put Optimal Nutrient Dosing Within Reach

The recommended daily allowance or RDA for vitamin C is 75 to 100 mg a day. This is just enough vitamin C to keep you from developing scurvy — a skin condition resulting from a vitamin C deficiency. But here’s the big point: Vitamin C can do so much more than just prevent scurvy.

By reaching an optimal daily dose of 2,000 mg, vitamin C becomes a powerful antioxidant that strengthens your immune system1,2, supports your cardiovascular system3,4 and optimizes your overall health. Hitting the RDA alone simply isn’t going to deliver those benefits.

Now let’s say you’re not interested in supplements and you want to reach the optimal dose from food sources alone. Here are some common food sources and the amount of vitamin C per serving they contain:

  • Papaya – 70 mg
  • Kiwi – 70 mg
  • Green peppers – 65 mg
  • Citrus fruit – 35-60 mg
  • Strawberries – 49 mg
  • Blueberries – 45 mg
  • Apples – 25 mg
As you can see, it’s going to take one heck of a lot of papaya or green peppers to reach 2,000 mg of vitamin C in any given day.

This is another reason why supplementation is so important. Being able to confidently reach optimal dosing levels on a regular basis just isn’t realistic otherwise.

The bottom line is this: If you’re looking for a practical way to get optimal amounts of a wide variety of nutrients into your diet, supplements are a great solution. Many of us simply can’t afford the time or money to hunt and gather nutrient-rich produce on a daily basis.

Should You Take Nutritional Supplements?

Still not sure if you should be taking supplements? We understand if you’re on the fence. Without an industry capable of spending “big pharma” dollars to fund massive clinical trials, it’s hard to convince mass media to relay the truth. And without mass media support … well, you know how that story goes.

Bruce Ames, professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), suggests that "to maximize human health and lifespan, scientists must abandon outdated models of micronutrients" and that "a metabolic tune-up through an improved supply of micronutrients is likely to have great health benefits."5

We agree with Bruce and for now, we’re going to have to rely on the wealth of research that is available, shared personal experiences, and common sense. Is that enough for you in the meantime? It certainly is for us.

References

  1. Ann Nutr Metab. 2006;50(2):85-94.
  2. Med. 2004 Nov;169(11):920-921
  3. Circulation. 2001 Oct 30;104(18):2182-7.
  4. J Hypertens. 2000 Apr;18(4):411-5.
  5. EMBO Rep. 6 Spec No: S20–4.

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8 comments:

Natural Guy said...

Great write-up!

I recently was opposed to taking too many supplements but have changed my mind! I researched and found that our bodies are lacking many nutrients due to food sources readily available and the fact that even if we were consuming the right amount of foods, the toxins in our world today would be too overwhelming for our bodies to deal with naturally. I've started taking a men's multivitamin (it smells like all the ingredients in the world!), 2,000 mg of biotin and chocolate and green tea supplement called vavalert (http://www.vavalertusa.com if anyone is curious) for mental focus and endurance.

Thanks again and look forward to reading other comments!

Life Extension said...

Natural guy, thank you for reading our blog and sharing your story. You know Life Extension has a great daily multivitamin as well :)

Natural Guy said...

Thanks and I'll certainly check em out! :-)

Tereza Ullinovich said...

Since I have started using Life Extension products I have noticed a difference more than before. Thank you.

Life Extension said...

Hello Tereza. You're welcome and thank you for your support!

Paul Wakfer said...

"Vitamin pills 'may shorten life'" is the top news on BBC health today - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15238610

Clearly LEF needs to do some investigation and refutation of it.

Paul Wakfer said...

"An organic-based diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables should be enough to keep us healthy."

If you accept Bruce Ames very reasonable, IMO, "Triage Theory" (http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2011/aug2011_Interview-with-Dr-Bruce-Ames_01.htm), then, even if the soil conditions were excellent and there were no toxic contaminants, those over 40 would still not likely be able to get nutrition from food alone which is adequate to their body's heightened needs.

Life Extension said...

You're right Paul. We do believe that even with a healthy organic diet, supplementation is still necessary.

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