Are your vitamin supplements doing any good? Are you wasting your money?
You might think vitamin supplements are a bit off topic what talking about heart health. But really they’re not. Various vitamins have been studied in terms of their importance to heart health. Vitamin B6 has been associated with a reduction of heart attacks in women. Vitamin C has been known to help lower blood pressure. Vitamin D and vitamin E have also been mentioned when discussing heart health.
How to know which and how much vitamin supplements to take
We have the government’s RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). And we have other recommendations by various experts. Some of the government’s RDA numbers are considered inaccurate by some experts. Most experts recommend that you should try get as much of your vitamin and mineral nutrients from food. And many recommend adding supplements to fill in the gaps where you may not get enough of these nutrients from food.
I’ve always thought it makes sense to take vitamin supplements in case I don’t get what I need from the food I eat. As I continue to learn more about what our food contains, I’m increasingly convinced that we need supplements. I’m also more concerned, and confused, about the quality of supplements. More on that below.
Here’s a short list of supplements that I have seen recommended. Especially for heart health.
– Vitamin D (2000IU or more, up to 8000IU)
– Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplements (1 to 3 grams of DHA and EPA)
– Vitamin C and vitamin E supplements if the multivitamin is short on these
How to know which brand of vitamin supplements to buy
If you are taking supplements that don’t work, you’re just wasting your time and money. So you want to get this right.
Think about it. If you take the same supplements for many years only to find out they didn’t contain any nutrients, or your system could not absorb those nutrients, it’s a waste of time and money. And you’ve also lost health benefits that you might have otherwise achieved with better supplements or food!
You need to know which supplements work. And which ones don’t. Finding the answer is not easy.
When searching for reviews of supplements you’ll find websites that claim to have reviewed them. They provide their results with a chart that ranks the best through the worst. Sometimes, looking closer, you’ll also find that these websites are selling supplements too. And of course what they are selling is usually recommended. Reviews are only part of the picture. Studies involving actual documented cases are very difficult to do. There are so many variables involved.
Consumer Labs offers reports of top rated brands here: http://www.consumerlab.com/news/Supplement-Users-Survey/2_1_2012/
These reports appear to be based on ratings by consumers. Not scientific study. Some of the information is given on this webpage but the full report is available for purchase. Consumer Labs has other studies as well that may be helpful. They charge a fee for much of their information.
Vitamin supplements and quality control
The USP (United States Pharmacopeia) is a non profit organization that sets standards for medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide. You will see their label (USP) on some bottles of supplements that they have tested. Their stamp means they have tested the product and approved it according to their testing. It means the product has met their standards. However, it does not mean the product contains what you might think. As an example, I have a bottle of vitamin E pills that contains the USP stamp. But, the vitamin E in the bottle is the synthetic type. This is stated as the main ingredient on the bottle label. The synthetic type (di-alpha tocopheryl acetate) is not recommended by nutrition experts. So I have a bottle of vitamin E with the USP stamp of approval on it. A bottle of vitamin E that I will be throwing in the garbage!
Grades of Supplements
There are 2 categories of supplements often discussed. Food grade, which meets standards set for human consumption. And pharmaceutical grade, which meets pharmaceutical standards. According to Wiktionary pharmaceutical grade is “A standard of purity suitable for use as a medicine.” Apparently most supplements are not labeled with either of these 2 grades. Some say the pharmaceutical grade claim used by some supplement sellers is simply a marketing ploy. Others say it’s an important consideration.
I’m currently taking Silver +50 Centrum multivitamin supplements. I’ve seen Centrum rated well on many websites. However, according to one article Centrum is rated very low in a book by Lyle MacWilliam called the “Comparative Guide To Nutritional Supplements”. It’s a book that came out at the request of Canadian Parliament to provide the public with information in order to make good decisions when it came to supplements. The article is here: http://ahealthieryou4life.blogspot.com/2010/12/best-vitamins-what-is-your-supplement.html. The article also lists some of the top ranking multivitamin supplements as follows…
1. Usana Health Sciences (96.1 in the 3rd edition)
2. Creating Wellness Alliance (not included in the 3rd edition)
3. Douglas Laboratories (75.1 in the 3rd edition)
4. TrueStar Health (not included in the 3rd edition)
I had hoped to come up with some good recommendations about supplements and brands. Through the process of researching this article I’ve discovered there are more questions than answers. I’m more suspicious of the supplements being sold. I’m not convinced that spending more provides better quality. Claims of “pharmaceutical grade” and “USP” labels don’t convince me that a product is beneficial.
I think the only good recommendation I can give is to try get more important nutrients from the food you eat. That’s one way to be sure you’re getting quality nutrients. More specifically unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables. You don’t need to concerned about pharmaceutical grade or nutrient labels when you buy blueberries and apples!
Vitamin Supplements that work
As for nutritional supplements, I still believe in them. But I’ll keep it simple. No mega doses with dozens of pills a day. A multivitamin and some fish oil supplements will do. As my search for the best supplements continues I’ll report my findings here on my website. If you are wondering if vitamin supplements are necessary I’ve written more about that here: Are vitamin supplements necessary?.