Debunking Myths about Supplements: Vitamins, minerals and herbs


The fact that I took supplements in the past is a tough pill to swallow because supplements can do us a lot of harm! I used to take a daily dietary supplement to make sure that I was getting all of the vitamins and minerals my body needs. I had picked an herbal, all natural supplement that was gluten free and felt great while taking it.

I don’t remember when or why I stopped taking the supplements, I know it was after more than half a year. However, I recently considered researching supplements to see if I should really be taking one. A lot of credible sources, including Tony Horton, the P90X trainer, recommend supplementing your diet, but I also have been trying to cut down on processed food and these pills are definitely highly processed.  Now I’m wary not only about the fact that they are processed but that they are barely regulated.

Myth #1: Supplements are completely safe, they can only help!

The FDA, which tests the safety of our food, does not analyze the contents of dietary supplements. At the end of the day, this lack of testing gives supplement manufacturers free reign on what to include in their products — who will check to make sure that the ingredients on the label are the actual contents? In fact, the FDA has a long list of potentially hazardous supplements with hidden ingredients that includes a disclaimer that the FDA cannot possibly be aware of all of the supplements that may contain harmful hidden ingredients.[1]

If you take other medications or drink alcohol, they may adversely interact with some supplements to hurt you. For example, a calcium supplement can interact with diuretics, among other things, to cause hypercalcemia[2] that has symptoms like nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, confusion or fatigue.[3] Additionally, overdosing on certain vitamins and minerals can also be harmful to your health.[4]

Myth #2: Supplement health claims are scientifically-backed

Health claims on supplement labels are not regulated. In fact, supplement manufacturers are not required to run studies to determine how effective their products are. They can contain powerful active ingredients, even natural ones, in doses that may do you more harm than good. There are even some known toxic herbs like aristolochia, yohimbe, bitter orange and chapparral that are included in some supplements on the market.[5][6]

There are scientific organizations that do test supplements, including[7], which may be a good resource to finding an appropriate one. Your doctor should definitely approve the supplement too, just to make sure you have no health problems it could aggravate.

By eating all kinds of food groups, especially dark leafy greens, I have made sure that my diet is well-rounded and so I should also be getting all of the necessary nutrients from my food in its natural state. This would be hard if I introduced empty processed calories from processed foods. If you choose to not eat a well-rounded diet, then supplements may be necessary for you to get proper nutrients into your system.

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