My Take on Dietary Supplements

My wife is trying to keep me alive and healthy as long as possible. I optimistically choose to believe that it’s because she likes having me around and cares not only about my longevity, but my quality of life.

On the other hand, she just might want to keep complaining at me as long as humanly possible (just kidding).

To that end, she feeds me (mostly) homemade, non-processed foods, heavily emphasizing various types of salads (she loves middle-eastern cooking) with some proteins, some fats, and minimizing the carbs (more on this in another blog post).

Introduction

natural health
Photo credit: Reuters

Every morning after breakfast, I walk into our kitchen pantry and see the row of bottles she has lined up for me. These are my supplements and she’s done a good deal of research in selecting what she believes will keep me healthy, active, and alert as I get older.

She buys most of these products from a place called Stop Aging Now. According to their About Us page, they’ve been around for 20 years, which I guess means they’re a successful business which (I have to assume) consistently offers quality products (The photo of the company’s CEO makes him look kind of young. I’d be really impressed with their products if he looked that way and was about 75 years old).

Quality products are a really important point. Just because someone advertises that they sell “healthy” supplements doesn’t mean they’re always telling the truth. You’ve probably heard of the recent (alleged) scam perpetrated by GNC, Target, and Wal-Mart, where they were selling herbal supplements that in fact only contained a tiny amount of what was advertised on the label.

According to the article, Wal-Mart said they would immediately reach out to their supplier to rectify this problem, while both GNC and Target denied any wrongdoing. A Target spokesperson said that their company, “is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests.”

My point is that you can’t be too careful.

All that said, I’m going to walk you through a brief description of what my LSW (Long Suffering Wife) has me taking every morning. I’m not saying you have to rush out and buy all this stuff, but I think there’s a certain reality to the idea that as we get older, and especially since the American food supply is woefully nutrient deficient, we have to add to the nutrition we get from eating by ingesting dietary supplements, even if we consume the healthiest foods available.

The Supplements

I’m providing links to information on each of these products so you can get all of the relevant data about them (in advertisement form). I’m only going to provide brief summaries here.

Multi Nutrient GOLD Multivitamin

According to an article at WebMD.com, three separate studies concluded that multivitamins don’t help you live longer, fend off heart disease, or improve your memory. The bottom line is no supplement or group of supplements can take the place of a poor diet (and given what I said above, it almost seems like we’re in a nutritional “Catch 22”). That said, if you have a reasonably to superbly good diet (lay off fast foods and junk foods for starters), it’s still possible that due to deficiencies in the American food supply and/or problems we human beings have in processing nutrients from food as we get older, that some supplements can actually do us some good.

As far as what Stop Aging Now has to say about this product:

What makes Multi Nutrient GOLD™ unique is that it contains a combination of ingredients that you will not find in any other multivitamin. In addition to all of the essential vitamins and minerals in their most ideal forms and doses, this highly effective formula is enhanced with green foods, fruit and berry extracts, potent doses of the antioxidants resveratrol and alpha lipoic acid, as well as other antioxidants you won’t find in typical multivitamins. These “extras” provide an incredible line of defense against the free radicals that can damage cells and accelerate aging.

When in doubt, unless I have a really good reason for disagreeing with the Missus (and occasionally I do), I just take what she gives me and call it good.

Omega-T Fish Oil

fish oil
Photo credit: Nature’s Bounty

Fish oil is supposed to be one of those things that’s good for you, at least that’s the “buzz” I hear periodically. According to the product summary at Stop Aging Now:

Studies have also shown that Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the EPA and DHA found in fish oil, can promote a healthy inflammatory response. Researchers speculate that this effect may be the reason that fish oil provides so many benefits for the heart, brain, eyes, skin and more.

One of the advantages of taking a fish oil supplement over eating fish has to do with avoiding any mercury that may be in our fish supply. According to the FDA, trace amounts of mercury can be found in almost all fish and shellfish, so a supplement may be a better option. On the other hand, I still like a good baked salmon.

MAX-Q10 CoEnzyme

Apparently, this coenzyme is naturally produced by the body, but production starts dropping off after age 30 and by age 70 it can be critically low. Since this product is supposed to facilitate general energy production in the body and is necessary for protecting cardiovascular health, I’d say that’s a big deal. Assuming all this information is accurate, it could, in some sense, explain why older people suffer from a loss of “get up and go” as well as have increase risk of heart disease. In that case, it makes sense to supplement what we lose as we age with an external source.

Super K with Advanced K2 Complex.

As it says on the bottle and at the product page, vitamin K maintains healthy bone density, something we older folks tend to lose over time, and is “required by calcium-regulating proteins in the arteries,” reducing risks to our vascular system.

We can get vitamin K1 from green vegetables, but probably not enough to meet our needs, according to the article. Vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products and is also made by gut bacteria, so I suppose if you ate right (and if you are trying to build muscle mass, you’re consuming protein sources such as meat and eggs), you could get enough K2 for your needs. However, again according to the product source, this supplement provides the correct amounts of each form of this vitamin.

Revolution-D

sun
Photo credit: Wallpaperswide.com

Vitamin D, as it says at “Stop Aging Now”, supports healthy bones, your immune system, optimal cognitive function and “healthy aging and longevity.” Although our bodies produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to sufficient sunlight, depending on where you live, in the winter, your natural supply of this vitamin could drop off dramatically.

Iodoral

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people living in developed countries shouldn’t require an iodine supplement since we usually get enough in our food, water, and in iodized salt.

But there are pros and cons about iodine supplements. One of the cons is that too much iodine can, at least in animal studies:

…high iodine intake can initiate and worsen infiltration of the thyroid by lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that accumulate due to chronic injury or irritation. In addition, large amounts of iodine block the thyroid’s ability to make hormone.

The pros are that iodine supports the immune system, healthy metabolism, and is “crucial” for thyroid and adrenal health.

I didn’t immediately agree to take this supplement but after several spirited discussions with my wife, she ended up cutting the dose in half (literally by cutting every tablet in the bottle in two), so I only take a small amount each morning. After many months I can’t say I’ve noticed a change one way or another, but who knows.

Curcumin 2K with Black Pepper Extract

Sounds more like something you’d season your food with, but I have read from numerous sources that turmeric-based supplements are good anti-inflammatories. I like this idea because it keeps my arthritis at bay without me having to take a prescription anti-inflammatory every time my back acts up. Actually, I hardly notice my arthritis most of the time, including while working out, so that’s a good thing.

It’s also supposed to be an anti-oxidant, reduces muscle damage due to exercise (another plus for me), and supports brain function, the cardiovascular system, and the joints. Here’s another article specifically describing “your brain on curcumin.”

Conclusion

You can probably tell from my “tone” that I’m just a little skeptical about all the benefits dietary supplements are supposed to provide. I can’t say they don’t work as advertised, but on the other hand, I’m not one of those people who can suddenly tell that my health has improved miraculously because of them.

I don’t get colds or the flu very often, but I don’t know that I’m getting sick less since I started taking supplements or exercising. That doesn’t mean they’re not helpful, just that I haven’t been paying close attention. There have been so many other things I’ve changed in my life over the past year or two, that I can’t really point to any one thing and say it’s the game changer.

cost
Photo credit: ARIIX.com

If you’re an older person, you probably are taking something, maybe a lot of somethings. As we get older and our bodies start complaining about it, doctors just love to throw pills and shots at us. I’m trying to stay off prescription medicines, and if eating right, exercising, and taking supplements supports a medical drug free life, I’m all for it.

If you clicked on all those links, you probably saw how incredibly expensive it is to buy all of these products on a regular basis. I suppose the expense of these products is on the one hand. On the other hand, what is the cost of a senior in declining health, an endless round of doctor’s visits, and ridiculously expensive pharmaceuticals? No matter what, as we get older, we can’t ignore the cost of maintaining our health. Our choice is just how we go about doing that.

Do your own research. Look for good consumer-related advice. Don’t take anyone’s word (even mine) that something is or isn’t good. You are your own best advocate. Get educated. Stay healthy.

Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.

George Halas

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