Are supplements necessary or a waste of money?

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Many people confront me on a daily basis wanting to know whether supplements are not just expensive urine. Now, unless you really have bad absorption levels, it is not true and supplementation is beneficial and can improve your health.

1. General information on the quality of our food that we consume daily

  • Nutrition is lost as soon as the vegetables and fruit are harvested and then looses more nutrition when cooked.
  • General fruit and vegetables are loaded with herbicides and pesticides.
  • Normal meat and poultry are loaded with antibiotics and hormones.

2. The truth about our general population’s diet

  • All diet surveys done in Britain since 1980 have failed to meet RDA`s (recommended Daily Allowances).
  • RDA`s are standards set by governments to prevent diseases like scurvy and not for optimal health.
  • The Bateman report of 1985 stated that 85% of people who thought they ate well did not meet the RDA requirements.3
  • Statistically 10% people meet RDA requirements.
  • Modern man’s diet is full of empty calories because of high sugar, fat and refined flours.

3. Normal meat vs free range and organic grass fed animals

Normal meat is loaded with antibiotics and hormones and these animals do not necessary live normal lives. Free range and organic animals live natural lives, roam on the land and have a plant-based diet. Free-range animals are treated by conventional veterinary methods and their plant-based diet needs not to be organic.

Organic animal husbandry requires that the farmer treats his animals with homeopathic medicines and only conventional drugs as a last resort. Organic animal products are free from residues of herbicides, pesticides, added hormones, antibiotics or any other synthetic feed additive. Organic animal husbandries are treated along strict ethical lines from feeding to slaughtering.

4. Organic fruit and vegetables vs normal fruit and vegetables

Organic fruit and vegetables have at least 4 times more nutritional value and are herbicide and pesticide free. Organic fruit and vegetables go with nature’s seasons. Organic farmers do not extend the shelf life of their produce through artificial processes.

5. Organically grown – a new dimension in caring for the farm workers

Organically grown produce does not expose the farmers and farm workers to harmful chemicals.  We have to start caring about the farmers and farm workers that are exposed to the herbicides and pesticides in normal farming operations. These chemicals play a major role in autoimmune diseases like SLE (lupus), allergies, fibromyalgia and others.

6. What does the world’s expert epidemiologist and nutritionists say about supplementation?

  • Dr Felicia Cosman of the National Osteoporosis Foundation said that only half of Americans are getting the required amount of Calcium needed per day.
  • Dr Frank Garland said that people with higher levels of vitamin D are less likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases like diabetes 1 and multiple sclerosis.
  • Garland also said that 1000 units of vitamin D per day could cut colon cancer in half and reduce rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer by 25%.
  • Drs Meir and Skerrett from Harvard say that there is real science behind nutritional advice but no single study is definitive.
  • In a recent German study, it was scientifically proved that supplementing with probiotics will reduce flu duration and make it less severe.
  • Prof Bruce Ames (UC Berkeley) says: “If you want to age faster; a good way to do it is to be short of some vitamins or minerals.” He takes Acetyl-carnitine; alpha-lipoic acid and a multivitamin.
  • Prof Joann Manson (Harvard Medical School): She takes Calcium 500mg twice a day with vitamin D.
  • Dean Ornish takes 3g of fish oil daily because it will reduce cardiac death 50-80%.
  • Dean Ornish also said that we must remember multivitamins do not give us a license to eat what we want1.
  • In a recent French study involving 13017 men and women who took antioxidants for a mean period of 7.5 years had reduced cancer with 31% and an all-cause mortality reduction by 37%2.
  • Patrick Holford says that we have enough scientific evidence to prove that supplementation boosts immunity, reduce birth defects, reduce colds etc. and promote a long and healthy life.3

7. The difficulties in nutritional trials

  • Timing: Dietary factors can affect different diseases at different times. Fish oils are most beneficial when the heart is already sick like with dangerous arrhythmias. Antioxidants will help more in preventing plaque buildup in arteries. Timing is of great importance otherwise you will miss a nutrients impact.
  • Duration: Chronic diseases develop over a long period. Clinical trials cannot sustain studies for a long period. We never really know how long a trial should run or how long the subjects should be studied.
  • Ethics: We know Trans fats are not good for heart health, but we cannot run a trial because it will not be ethical or feasible.
  • Practicality: Eating broccoli twice a day for 20 years will have an influence on cancer prevention. It will be problematic though to follow them and very costly.

8. Are RDA`s enough for optimal health

  • RDA`s are not enough for optimal health and has been proved by Dr Emanuel Cheraskin and colleagues from the University of Alabama.4
  • Dr Cheraskin and colleagues have found that intake of nutrients associated with optimal health was ten or more times higher than RDA levels.
  • Patrick Holfords Institute for Optimum Nutrition has taken this research further and developed the ODAs (Optimum daily allowances = good diet plus supplements).
  • Patrick Holford proves that with a good diet we are still deficient in all vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals in the average human being.

9. Special needs

  • Vitamin D: general multivitamin supplements do not supply enough of either.
  • Iron: 10% of menstruating women have a deficiency that can cause weakness and fatigue.
  • Vitamin B12: as we age we absorb less – needs increase because of bad absorption.
  • Vitamin D: most people are deficient and older people have problems in synthesizing it from sunlight.
  • Calcium needs increase with 20% after the age of 50.
  • Supplementation with folic acid will reduce birth abnormalities in babies.
  • Most vegetarians have to supplement with vitamin B`s and iron.
  • If you do not get 10 minutes of sunshine a day and eat enough fish and cottage cheese – you need to supplement with vitamin D.
  • Smokers need more vitamin C and other antioxidants.
  • Aspirin will inhibit the action of vitamin C and folic acid.
  • Statins strip the body of Coenzyme Q10 and must be supplemented.

Recommended daily allowances (RDA) only prevent disease and special needs like the above- mentioned needs specific supplementation. Get your nutritional needs professionally analyzed and follow a tailored programme of supplementation.

Drugs can affect the absorption, metabolism or excretion of nutrients.

1. Effects of drugs on food intake

Drugs may affect food intake or the absorption, metabolism or excretion of nutrients. This may have implications in terms of food choice or nutritional requirements.

Food intake may be reduced because of drugs which:

  • Have an anorexic effect, either as a direct effect of the drug on appetite (e.g. some antibiotics and many cytotoxic drugs) or because of side effects such as drowsiness or lethargy. (e.g. tranquillisers).
  • Cause nausea and vomiting: this is a common side effect of many drugs.
  • Affect the gastrointestinal tract: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen often cause indigestion, heartburn or gastritis. Other drugs may produce gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating or early satiety. Chronic abdominal pain or diarrhoea may reduce the inclination to eat.
  • Cause taste changes: several drugs (particularly cytotoxic and psychiatric drugs) result in either loss of taste (making food seem dull and bland) or change in taste perception (making some foods taste unpleasant). These results can either affect the amount or type of food eaten.
  • Cause dry mouth: lack of saliva makes it difficult to master and swallow foods, especially those of a dry fibrous consistency.
  • Cause sore or painful mouth: this is a common side effect of chemotherapy and can significantly impair food intake.
  • Confusion: drugs that impair memory or cause confusion can result in people forgetting to eat.

Drugs may also increase food intake if they:

  • Stimulate appetite: this is a common side effect of corticosteroids, insulin and psychotropic drugs.
  • Induce cravings for particular foods, particularly carbohydrates: some psychotropic drugs have this effect and weight gain is common amongst them.

2. Effects of drugs on nutrient absorption

 Absorption can be impaired as a result of:

  • Formation of insoluble complexes: many drugs can chelate with minerals and trace elements, e.g. penicilamine (used occasionally in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) chelates zinc, cholestyramine binds with iron; antacids may bind with phosphorus.
  • Competition of binding sites, e.g. salicylate drugs such as aspirin compete with vitamin C; sulphasalazine impairs folate absorption.
  • Damage to the absorptive surface of the intestinal mucosa: drugs used in chemotherapy can cause villous atrophy, resulting in malabsorption.
  • Lack of bile acids: the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, especially A, D and K, will be impaired by bile salts binding-drugs such as cholestyramine.
  • Increased intestinal movement: drugs that cause diarrhoea (e.g. some antibiotics) or stimulate peristaltic activity (e.g. laxative such as Senna or phenolphthalein) may result in nutrient losses.

3. Effects of drugs on nutrient metabolism

Carbohydrate metabolism

Hypoglycaemic drugs such as insulin and sulphonylureas are prescribed because of their ability to increase carbohydrate utilization, and their action has to be balanced with carbohydrate intake in order to maintain glycaemic control. Other drugs such as oral contraceptives or corticosteroids have adverse affects on carbohydrate metabolism and worsen glucose intolerance.

Lipid metabolism

Some drugs are used to correct lipid metabolism, whilst others such as chlorpromazine and phenobarbitone can induce hyperlipidaemia.

Vitamin and mineral metabolism

Micronutrients are required coenzymes or cofactors in many metabolic pathways, including those by which drugs are metabolised. Increased activity of these pathways because of drug metabolism may therefore increase micronutrient requirements.

Drugs can also compete with, or inhibit, the metabolic conversion of some micronutrients to their active metabolites, particularly folate. Methotrexate (used in the treatment of some cancers) directly antagonizes folic acid metabolism by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme dehydrofolate reductase. Anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin, phenobarbitone and primidone) impair vitamin D metabolism, probably by inhibiting the hydroxylation to its active form, with consequent disturbances in calcium metabolism and adverse effects on bone.

Drugs may also affect the metabolism of dietary components. Type A monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI-A) exert their antidepressant effects by inhibiting the breakdown of endogenously produced amine neurotransmitters. However, they also inhibit the breakdown of dietary amines such as tyramine that, if allowed to accumulate, can produce a dangerous rise in blood pressure. Patients on these drugs therefore have to avoid dietary sources of tyramine and other vasoactive amines. More recently, reversibly inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (known as RIMA) such as moclobemide have been introduced and these drugs appear to cause less potentiation of the pressor effects of tyramine. Dietary precautions may not therefore need to be as strict as with other MAOI-A drugs, although high intakes of foods such as cheese, yeast extracts and fermented bean products should still be avoided. It should be noted that monoamine oxidase B inhibitors, such as selegiline used in the management of Parkinson’s disease, do not have hypertensive effects or dietary implications in terms of amines.

Supplementation programs must be reviewed once a year or earlier if your health needs change.

Do you have a tailored supplementation programme that suit your specific needs?


  1. Newsweek January 23, 2006, p 36
  1. Natural Medicine Feb/March 2006, issue 22
  1. Holford P. New Optimum Nutritional Bible. Piatkus books, London. 2004.
  1. Cheraskin, E. et al., “Establishing a suggested optimum nutrition allowance (SONA)”, (1994); “What is optimum?”, Optimum Nutrition Magazine, vol 7.2 pp.46-7 (1994).


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