Time and time again I get asked if we need supplements. If one can follow a very healthy diet (you know the one I am talking about? With a bucket of lettuce for a side dish) and stay away from pills. My answer is that it’s difficult. The follow up question is:
“And what about the previous generations? My grandmother back in Slovenia lived up until the age of 95 with no vitamins.”
So did she know something we don’t?
One thing is for sure. They lived a very different life from ours. What has changed that makes food on its own inadequate to cover our nutritional needs?
1. Foods nowadays are depleted by many essential nutrients making supplementation necessary.
- a. The use of herbicides and pesticides reduce the plants’ phytonutrient production.
- b. Due to the soil depletion of minerals; plants’ mineral absorption is reduced.
- c. The transport of foods across the globe further reduces their nutrient content.
- d. Farming practices focusing on profitability have reduced the variety of food given to animals changing their fat profile.
2. We live a more toxic life which means higher nutritional needs. And by toxins I mean environmental as a well as emotional. A high toxic load – for which one can get tested – increases our need for detoxifying nutrients.
- a. MSG (monosodium glutamate), hydrolyzed vegetable protein and aspartame are all excitotoxins which can potentially harm our energy production systems.
- b. Homecare products, unfiltered water and foods such as salmon, tuna, sword fish may contain heavy metals which at best put a burden on our detoxification pathways.
- c. Stress can have a detrimental effect in our health directly increasing our need for vitamin B5, B6 & C, zinc, magnesium.
3. The use of drugs further depletes the body of vital nutrients increasing the need for supplementation.
a. Many high blood pressure medication such as statins, beta blockers and antidepressant drugs reduce the body’s ability to produce antioxidants.
b. Birth control pills, long term administration of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, anti-diabetic and antibiotic drugs have been shown to reduce B vitamin levels.
While all the above are pretty negative reasons why we need supplements there are also two positive ones.
4. Science has progressed making supplements nowadays (at least when they come from high quality brands and supervised by responsible healthcare professionals) much safer than what they used to be. We also know more on the body’s biochemical function and for instance understand the dangers of folic acid which only 15 years ago was administered blind folded to everyone.
5. Due to the Human Genome Project we can now sequence, for a couple hundred pounds, parts of our DNA and understand our predisposition to developing certain conditions. While the diet is still our base we can now further support our body with supplements and compensate for our DNA’s inability to efficiently run specific processes.
My advice is that the use of supplements needs always to be supervised by a healthcare practitioner.