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Do You Need Supplements? An Evidence-Based Discussion - Part I

Do You Need Supplements? An Evidence-Based Discussion - Part I


Think you don’t need supplements?

Think again!

You may want to reconsider your thoughts about supplements to improve your health and well-being since your body requires a certain amount of each of the essential nutrients daily to function optimally!

  • Without folate, you would not be able to produce serotonin and melatonin1,2

  • Without magnesium, you would not be able to generate the cellular energy required for your heart to beat3

  • Without Vitamin C, you would not be able to produce collagen, which is necessary for healthy skin, bones, and joints4

Ideally, you would get these nutrients from the food you eat each day, but the research definitively shows most Americans are not eating in a way that provides enough nutrients. According to a study published in June 2020, a significant number of Americans do not meet the daily intake recommendations for micronutrients essential for the optimal function of the immune system. Specifically, 45% of adults over 19 years of age in the US consumed an inadequate amount of vitamin A, 46% did not consume enough vitamin C, 95% consumed insufficient vitamin D, 84% did not meet the daily estimated average requirement of vitamin E, and 15% had insufficient intake of zinc. There is also a smaller prevalence of inadequacy in other essential immune nutrients, such as 11% for Vitamin B6, 12% for folate, 6% for copper, and 5% for iron.5

There are many reasons why Americans might not consume enough nutrients in their diets, including:

Modern Agriculture and Food Processing Methods – 

  • Modern farming techniques can lead to a phenomenon known as “soil depletion.” If crops are not rotated properly, and if nutrients are not replenished after every harvest, the nutrients in the soil will become depleted. Fertilizers by themselves are often not enough, and research has determined the nutrient content of food grown today is much lower than the nutrient content of food that was grown decades ago.6,7

  • Hybrid crops can lower the nutrient density of crops because they yield more food per acre.8

  • Pesticides and herbicides may damage soil microorganisms, which are needed to make minerals and other nutrients available to plants.9 Also, exposure to pesticides and herbicides may cause our bodies to require extra nutrients to process and eliminate them.10

  • Long-distance transportation of many foods diminishes their nutrition because there could be weeks between the harvest and consumption. Nutrient levels naturally begin to decrease just after harvest.11

  • Food processing and refinement drastically reduce nutrient content.12 For example, refining certain grains, such as corn, may remove over 50% of essential nutrients including magnesium, zinc, and chromium.13

  • Food additives, such as artificial flavors, colors, stabilizers, and preservatives can further deplete nutrients and nutrient absorption.14

  • Even modern water is unwholesome and depleted of minerals! Humans have always relied on nutrient-rich water to get the essential minerals our bodies need, but modern-day processing and filtration of water remove many nutrients, especially in North America.15

Dietary Restrictions – 

  • Many individuals are on special diets that restrict the intake of certain food groups. For example, those on a vegetarian or vegan diet might need to supplement with zinc, iron, B-12, iodine, amino acids, and other nutrients.16,17

  • Individuals, especially children, who are allergic or sensitive to certain foods such as dairy might need to supplement with calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, and other nutrients.17

  • A gluten-free or grain-free diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies since grains are excellent sources of B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium.18

Unhealthy eating habits – 

  • Those who consume the “Standard American Diet (SAD)” often choose processed and fast foods with minimal nutrient content.19

  • Individuals with an eating disorder or a low appetite might not consume enough food to ensure adequate nutrient intake.20

  • Busy people who eat their meals and snacks while “on the go” often choose unhealthy processed foods, and eating on the go could impair the optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients.21

  • Ideally, we would eat the rainbow by seeking out white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables daily. Picky eaters and many others are unlikely to choose a colorful variety of nutrient-dense foods.22

You are in a life stage that requires extra nutrients –

  • Individuals over the age of 50 have an increased need for calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, and other nutrients.23

  • Pregnant and lactating women tend to have higher nutrient needs and could benefit from taking Vitamin D, iron, folate, and other nutrients.24

  • Growing infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents must consume adequate nutrients for optimal growth and development.25

You have a health condition –

  • Those who have had bariatric surgery will likely require life-long nutrient support and guidance.24

  • Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions can lead to nutrient malabsorption.18,26

  • Individuals with pernicious anemia are unable to absorb Vitamin B-12 and require B-12 from sources other than foods.27

  • Many pharmaceutical medications affect nutrient status. For example, those taking metformin require extra Vitamin B-12. Those taking statins may require extra CoQ10. Women on birth control likely need to take B Vitamins and other nutrients.28

Lifestyle factors could contribute to nutrient depletion and increase the need for certain nutrients, for example:

  • People who use sunscreen or have limited sun exposure might need to supplement with Vitamin D.29

  • Smoking increases the need for antioxidants.30

  • Alcohol intake increases the need for B Vitamins and many other nutrients.31

  • Intense physical exercise increases the need for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.32,33

  • Sweating due to sauna or other factors increases the need for trace minerals.34,35

  • Exposure to air pollution, unfiltered water, some work environments, and other toxic or potentially toxic substances increases the need for many nutrients.36

  • Drinking significant amounts of coffee and tea with high tannin levels may increase the need for iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals because tannins can block the absorption of the minerals. The diuretic effect of caffeine can also deplete nutrients.37,38

  • Chronic stress may increase the need for magnesium, B vitamins, and many other nutrients while also diminishing digestion and nutrient absorption.39

While vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential, it is possible to take too much and cause harm. Always follow the dosing guideline on the label of a supplement and consult a qualified health professional first to avoid any drug-nutrient conflicts. It is best to avoid supplements with added excipients such as sweeteners, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, binders, and fillers. Also, children should only take supplement formulas designed for their age and needs unless prescribed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.

In conclusion, even a “nutrient-dense and balanced” diet might not be enough to meet all nutrient requirements each day due to soil depletion and the many other factors discussed above. In the modern rushed world, taking supplements is an essential step towards achieving optimal wellness.

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