by Julie Cornelius, MS
I get a lot of questions about supplements, so I wanted to take the time to write about them and give some more information. As of 2015, the supplement industry is a $37 billion industry! That is a huge amount of money being spent on different supplements that claim to improve health, aid in weight loss, help with fitness goals, or any other number of potential benefits. So, should you be taking them or not?
There are thousands of difference supplements out on the market. They all have different intended purposes and claims. Supplements are intended to be taken in addition to a healthy diet and not in place of one. There is no supplement that can provide the nutrients, including fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, that fresh foods can provide. Recent studies have created a rift among researchers as to whether or not supplements are beneficial or harmful. In 2013, a few studies found that multivitamin supplements did not work better than placebos. A growing body of research even suggests that high doses of certain vitamins can cause harm. Too much vitamin A can cause headaches and birth defects. High doses of iron can cause liver damage and harm to other organs. Other research suggests that the synthetic forms of the vitamins found in supplements may be harmful and possibly cause various diseases. A long term study found that prostate cancer risk was increased in men who took a folic acid supplement, the synthetic form of the naturally occurring b vitamin folate.
Along with multivitamins and other nutrient supplements, there are a whole host of supplements marketed toward athletes for different performance benefits. Many of these supplements make some pretty big claims and are expensive. Protein powders are very popular, but if you look at the cost per gram of protein, most supplements are double the cost per gram of protein vs something like chicken. I won’t go into detail about all of the different supplements out there, but only a few have solid research and many of them can be harmful and dangerous. If you have questions about a particular supplement, feel free to email me!
The supplement industry is loosely regulated by the FDA. The FDA does require supplement companies to have evidence that their products and claims are truthful, but they do not require these before a supplement is marketed.
It is my professional opinion that we should try to get the nutrients we need from eating good food. With that being said, there are some instances where supplements might be beneficial:
-Vitamin b 12 can be necessary for vegans. Vitamin b 12 is almost exclusively found in animal sources, so a vegan might need to supplement their diet with this essential nutrient.
-Those who have low bone density or are at risk for developing osteoporosis can benefit from taking a supplement that includes calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
If you are considering a supplement, be sure to check with your doctor before taking any since there can be interactions with certain medications.
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier.