Sandra Justice, P.D., FACA
In a perfect world all the nutrients we need for good health would come from our food. But the world is not perfect. We live in a world with pollution, processed food, depleted soil, and other lifestyle factors that make it almost impossible for us to give our bodies optimal fuel from food alone.
Given the need to nutritionally supplement our diets, do you ever wonder if the supplements you take are what you really need? And what about the quality- are they what they say they are? Then there is the question of dosage form and quantity. Knowledgeable answers to all these questions are important to promoting your good health.
Choosing the supplements you need
There are hundreds of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other nutrients sold in the U.S. market today. Add to that almost 600 herbs and botanical products and it becomes easy to see that identifying your personal needs is necessary. Quality nutrients are expensive so seeking the help of a health professional involved in nutritional programming makes good sense. Needs assessment can be done in a variety of ways from a brief consultation on a supplement regimen to prevent illness to a more comprehensive evaluation, including a health history and lifestyle survey and/or blood analysis, to manage the presence or high risk of a chronic illness.
What dose of the active ingredients is adequate for your needs?
In general many nutritional supplements on the market today have insufficient amounts of active ingredient to achieve the positive impact on health and wellness that published studies have shown. For example, the Cooper Clinic of Dallas, Texas published the following recommendations for basic supplementation:
Women, Age 22-50
- Vitamin C — 500 mg twice a day
- Vitamin E — 600 IU/day, for breast tenderness- 1,000-2,000 IU daily
- Beta Carotene — 25,000 IU/day; none if smoking
- Folic Acid — 800 mcg/day; 1 mg if infertile or pregnant
- Vitamin B6 — 50 mg/day
- Vitamin B12 — 400 mcg/day
- Selenium — 100 mcg/day
- Calcium — 500 mg three times daily;
Consult pharmacist for the product best for you:
- Yogurt (8oz) = 400mg, Milk (8oz) = 300mg,
- Cheese (1oz) = 200mg, Fortified orange juice (8oz) = 350 mg
- Glucosamine — 500 to 1,000 mg/day to reduce joint pain
- Aspirin — 81 mg (1 ¼ gr) daily if over 40, enteric coated is easily tolerated
The Cooper Clinic also published recommendations for other age groups, for men, and for heavy exercisers. If you are currently taking nutritional supplements, check your labels for these dosage recommendations. Again, it becomes essential for you to be proactive in your own health and nutrition by seeking advice and information from those health professionals knowledgeable in this area.
Quality of Product
A nutritional supplement is only effective if the active ingredient gets into your body in the appropriate amounts. Thus how a supplement is manufactured, what form of active ingredient is used, and the dosage form of the final preparation is extremely important. The following are informed questions to ask when purchasing supplements:
* Are these supplements made according to pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices?
Supplements may not dissolve adequately or may be below label strength, and labeling games that include the use of cheaper ingredients occur in the manufacturing industry. Find a health professional you trust who selects quality products to offer.
* Has this form of active ingredient been demonstrated to be effective?
A few years ago an article appeared in a respected medical journal stating that garlic was not effective in reducing cholesterol. The form of garlic used in the study was garlic oil. Yet all of the published studies promoting the positive benefits of garlic in lowering cholesterol involved the use of the powdered form per German Commission E specifications. Thus using a specific form of the active ingredient is very important in producing the desired health benefits.
* What’s the best dosage form for the supplement?
Certain active ingredients in nutritional supplements are more available to your body in specific dosage forms. For instance B12 is more effective in a sublingual form (dissolved slowly under the tongue). Co-enzyme Q10 is better absorbed in rice bran oil as opposed to the powder-only form. These are just a
few examples so be sure you ascertain the best form for each supplement you are using.
There are many other considerations in choosing nutritional supplements. Diet, age, drug therapy, smoking status, pregnancy and lactation play a role in selecting types and amounts of nutrients. Nutritional supplementation is essential to your future wellness and improved quality of life but only if the program is specific to your needs. There are pharmacists and other health professionals involved in wellness programming who can help you be supplement savvy. Seek their counsel.