Do vitamin supplements really work?

When people ask me “Do supplements really work?’ My answer is yes and no.

 Many of them don’t, and many of them do. It all depends on where you find them….Supplements will never replace a high quality diet full of fruits and vegetables.  Yet they are available everywhere these days. You can find them in the health food shop, the chemist and even the supermarket. It seems that most people take a vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement to complement their health or treat a condition. But are they really effective? 

Supplements exposed?

Last year, there was a story on the ABC current affairs show Four Corners about supplements. It claimed that we are wasting our money as these products’ health claims are not adequately researched or proven. However, the story was sourced from an American program and featured products made in the United States.In Australia, complementary health products are tightly regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA). Any Vitamin, herb or mineral product must be scrutinized and approved as safe for consumption before it is approved for sale. In fact, the TGA states that some health products can indeed have adverse as well as beneficial effects. In the USA, the regulations are much more relaxed, so what is claimed to be in the product may in fact be something completely different! So if you are online ordering products from overseas, remember BUYER BEWARE! Many companies will make amazing health claims and are quite happy to take your money. 

But aren’t these products Natural?

Herbs and vitamins are considered “natural” and therefore safer than medications. However, respect must be given to supplements, because, just like pharmacy medication, these substances can alter cellular function. So more is not necessarily better (or safe.) More often than not though, you will find poor quality retail products with really small dosages. Which means that you need to take a large amount to have a therapeutic effect. And nobody can do that for long. 

Rant alert!

One of my pet hates are the MLM (read pyramid marketing) companies that sell “amazing” weight loss and detoxification products in the form of powders (high salt/high sugar) and tablets at exorbitant prices. These low dose synthetically made products will cost you about $500 per month and require you to take about 20 or more tablets daily.  THEY ARE VERY POOR QUALITY! Please, whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the hype around these products. The person selling to you is getting a kickback and will want you to sell product too. 

Which supplements work, then?

So back to the original question, which supplements work, and which don’t? As a consumer, it can be extremely overwhelming when it comes to choosing a supplement for your particular needs. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you may choose a product that may not live up to your expectations. There are many different types of vitamins/minerals/herbs, in different amounts, in different combinations. In addition, you need to know the best time to take them for effective absorption. If you are taking particular medication, this needs to be taken into account as well.Here are a few examples:

  • Did you know that taking St Johns Wort (for depression) can reduce the effectiveness of the oral contraceptive pill?
  • That if you take high doses of Vitamin C, you are likely to excrete most of it (via the urine)? The body actually assimilates small frequent doses of Vitamin C more effectively than a large daily dose.
  • Echinacea is a herb that is mainly used for acute respiratory conditions. But did you know that there are different species, some more effective than others?

The Bottom Line:

When I need to buy new car parts, I have absolutely no knowledge about cars. So I can go to Repco and ask the experienced sales people what is best for my car, or I visit my mechanic, who provides them for me. The same goes for supplements; when clients come to see me for a consultation, I ask them to bring along their supplements.  I then review the quality and dosages, determine which are best for their needs and which ones may need replacing (or eliminating.)Naturopaths can also provide you with high quality, high dose products that really work. If you would like to have your supplements reviewed, or even have a review of your diet, I can help. Don’t wait any longer to feel better, assistance is never far away.For more information visit : www.torquayholistic.com.au.Yours in Health,Lynda. For more information about the TGA regulations:https://www.tga.gov.au/overview-regulation-complementary-medicines-australia.