December 3, 2016

Are you hooked on more supplements than you need?

Are you hooked on more supplements than you need?


We all believe that health is wealth, and we should spare no expense in making sure we glow with health most of the time. One of the fast fix ways for most of us to stay healthy is popping all manner of vitamin pills. Only recently, it’s been alleged that many people who take high doses of certain vitamins and minerals could be damaging their health. According to recent advice from Britain’s Food Standard Agency (FSA), most of us don’t need supplements as we get enough nourishment from our food.



Are we then wasting our money and endangering our health on supplements or is it a storm in a tea-cup? According to the FSA, high doses of supplements on top of a balanced diet could take our intake several times over the daily allowances of certain nutrients. It calls for the ban on the mineral, chromium picolinate and says that long term high doses of betacarotene, Vitamin B6, nicotinic acid, manganese, phosphorus and zinc could do irreversible damage; high doses of Vitamin C, calcium and iron may have harmful though reversible effects; and high doses of biotin, niacin, thiamin and Vitamin B12 have unknown effects.

FSA reports that its advice is based on a thorough, independent and expert review of available scientific evidence, though it alleges that ongoing research into the effects of some of the Vitamins and minerals may mean the advice will have to be modified at some future date. According to the FSA, supplements more than 100mg of Vitamin C, 1,500mg of calcium or 17mg of iron a day can cause abdominal pain, wind and diarrhoea, and more than 200mg a day of Vitamin B6 can make arms and legs numb. It advises that supplements of more than 7mg a day of beta-carotene may encourage lung cancer in smokers, and large amount might increase the risk of cancer in other people. It also recommends avoiding supplements of two minerals – these are chromium picolinate (which some people take to increase their levels of blood sugar), as there is an unproven suggestion that it may cause certain cancers, and germanium (which some people take to increase the energy they get from food), as its effects aren’t clear.

These minerals occur at very low – and safe -levels in many foods (chromium in meat, while grains, lentils and spices, for example; and germanium in beans; tuna and garlic). It advises, however, that if you are taking high doses of Vitamin B6 or iron because your doctor advises it, you should continue. It also says that supplement of other forms of chromium (for example chromium polynicotinate) are unlikely to do any harm but advises not taking more than 10mg a day. Though supplement producers have maintained supplements are safe long term, if they contained no more than the BOA of each nutrient, the FSA says it plans to ask supplement producers to reduce the dose (and/ or provide label warnings for some high-dose nutrients.

So are extra nutrients really helpful? Yes, says the ROA though it’s nearly always better to get them from a healthy diet, partly because food provides a complex mixture of nutrients that encourage each other to be absorbed and used well. The argument that many people need a daily supplement to make up for having a poor diet doesn’t wash, since it is wiser to buy good food than supplements. However, it is true that intensive farming and certain modern food technologies have reduced that amount of certain nutrients in food, so our diet may not always supply enough.

Who needs extra nutrients? Women with heavy periods may need extra iron (discuss with your doctor). Women of child-bearing age, or pregnant, should take a daily O.4mg of folic acid. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should take a daily 10cg Vitamin D while some older people may need Vitamin D (discuss with your doctor).

Most children aged six months or two years (or five, if they don’t eat a wide range of foods) should take Vitamin A, C and D drops. Some researchers would like everyone to take a multi-mineral and vitamin supplements (“multi”}, others, say that this is money down the drain. Some nutritionists are more specific, saying, for example, that a multi is wise for elderly people (since they no longer absorb nutrients as well) and those who are stressed or unwell (since they need more of certain nutrients – for example, Vitamin B and C).

Taking a multi and eating a healthy diet means that you may get a surplus of

some nutrients. That might not really matter since even if the multi contains 100 per cent of the RDA of certain nutrients, your total intake of anyone nutrient still won’t be very high. However, it’s very wise to avoid high dose supplements, unless recommended by a doctor, dietician or well qualified nutritionist.

One More Time With Feelings? (Humour)

A female golfer is horrified when her ball hits a male player. She sees him fall to the ground and clasp his hands between his legs, writhing in agony.

She rushes over to him and says: “I’m so sorry, but I can help. I’m a massager, so I’ll ease the pain”.

She quickly pulls down his trousers and begins to massage his groin area.

When she’s finished, she asks: “How does that feel now?” “Fantastic”, he replies, “But my thumb’s still killing me”.