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Can you trust your supplements?

One of the most common questions I get is which vitamins or supplements I use and what I recommend. I spent the last two years researching this a lot. (Especially after one of the Whole Foods supplements I thought was good was recalled, and a brand I had recommended to a few clients was found to have traces of heavy metals in it.)

And did you see these studies showing that many tested supplements did not actually contain what they said they did?

Whole, real food is crucial. But few of us have a perfect diet. And unfortunately, the quality of our food has declined due to poor soil nutrients content, lack of crop rotation and higher amounts of processed foods consumed than ever before.

So even when you’re eating a perfect diet, you’re not getting the nutrient content in foods that we were getting 50 years ago.

Research shows that less than 10% of Americans are getting the minimal amount of nutrition they need. That is crazy!

The types of supplements that are on the market fall into one of these categories:

  • Synthetic : These supplements are man-made, have no enzymes, contain potential side effects, can contain artificial colors, flavors, binders, fillers, and sweeteners. They typically use the cheapest ingredients and some are coated with shellac.

  • Crystalline or Extract: These can be labeled organic or natural but only need to have 15% natural sources (by FDA regulations) to be labeled natural. They can also be imbalanced and contain fillers or harsh binders.

  • Natural (cold-pressed): These have high quality sources of raw materials, non-chemical processing and extracting and strong enzyme activity. These are the ones you want to be taking!

How do you know if it’s synthetic? Check the label and avoid those that use the dl-form, for example dl-alpha tocopherol for Vitamin E.

You want a vitamin that is designed to work together so that it is properly absorbed.

Many synthetic vitamins lack the transporters and co-factors associated with naturally-occurring vitamins because they have been “isolated.” The Organic Consumers Association emphasizes that isolated vitamins cannot be used or recognized by the body in the same way as the natural version [1].

Synthetic vitamins are not only ineffective, they can be harmful. Check out this finding:

Natural vitamin A and beta carotene are well known as immune boosters and cancer fighters, in their role as antioxidants. Synthetic vitamin A by contrast has actually brought about significant increases in cancer. The same Finnish study we saw above provided smokers with large doses of synthetic beta carotene. Lung cancer incidence increased 18%! (NEJM Apr 94 “The Alpha Tocopherol Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group”)

These findings were corroborated two years later in another study written up in Lancet. Pharmacologic doses of synthetic beta carotenes were found to block the antioxidant activity of the other 50 naturally occurring carotenoids in the diet. Anti-cancer activity was thus blocked by the synthetic. (Lancet 1996)

Here are some questions you can ask a company before buying their supplements. A friend shared this list and I love it:

  1. Is the final product organic and free of pesticides herbicides and chemicals? How do they prove the finished product is free of these contaminants?

  2. What are the ingredients in the product and what country did they come from?

  3. Is EACH bottle (not a random test) proven to be free of pesticides, heavy metals, and lead?

  4. Where is the scientific information to back up that claim and who tests it? (It needs to be a 3rd party NOT associated with the company.)

  5. Who does the clinical studies on their products? (It must be associations not receiving profits from the sale of the product, doctors shouldn’t own the company.)

  6. Have the results from the studies of the product been published in trusted medical journals (JAMA, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)?

Start by reading your labels! The only brand I have found that I know meets all of the above criteria is Shaklee. I have member discounts available and am happy to help you evaluate the products you are using.

You could start by doing a simple health assessment to see what your health score is and what might most benefit you!

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