When it comes to multivitamins and other nutritional supplements, many myths exist about their effectiveness and safety. Whether it’s being perpetuated by the media, physicians, or other sources, sadly, this misinformation causes confusion and, worse yet, can make people reluctant to take supplements that can help them achieve optimal health.
Let’s take a look at five of the most common myths associated with nutritional supplement effectiveness and safety, and what the real supplement facts are for each one.
Separating Supplement Facts From Supplement Myths
Nutritional supplements, particularly multivitamins, just produce expensive urine since you can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Food production and preparation techniques can strip even “good” food of beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, there are other reasons nutritional supplements are necessary, and relying on diet alone won’t provide your body what it needs for optimal health and well-being.
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) are sufficient for promoting optimal health. Most multivitamins contain nutrient doses that are equal to (or less than) what are commonly referred to as RDAs. These dosage levels are intended to help the average healthy person maintain good health and avoid nutrient deficiencies. But RDAs don’t reflect the modern scientific understanding of what nutrient levels promote optimal health, not merely the absence of major disease.
That’s why my recommended doses for most nutrients are higher (sometimes much higher) than the RDAs. This is a reflection of both scientific literature and more than 30 years of clinical experience seeing firsthand the positive effects of higher doses of essential nutrients.
“Bioavailability” is an important factor to consider when selecting a nutritional supplement, no matter what it is. Bioavailability refers to how easy it is for your body to absorb and utilize a nutrient, and it should be considered when selecting some supplements. But it is not a required factor across the board as many people believe.
More specifically, you should keep bioavailability in mind when taking coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), curcumin and resveratrol, because research has shown that some forms of these nutritional supplements are more difficult for your body to assimilate. You should also take nutrient form into account for vitamin E and beta-carotene since the natural forms are definitely superior compared with their synthetic counterparts.
Supplement fillers and all other non-nutrient ingredients aren’t necessary and/or are unsafe. As a blanket statement, this simply is not true. Most nutritional supplements require binders to hold tablets together or fillers such as cellulose or magnesium stearate for encapsulation. They may also contain silicon dioxide and other “glidants” to facilitate the manufacturing process. These substances are present in minute amounts and are harmless.
As for other non-nutrient ingredients, it does make sense to avoid artificial flavorings and colorings, chemical preservatives, and excessive excipients (inactive substances that are carriers for active ingredients). The best products contain only natural flavoring agents such as herbal extracts, lemon and vanilla, and no chemical dyes.
Exposure to hot or cold temperatures, especially when traveling and/or during shipping, will lessen supplement effectiveness or make them unsafe. While it is true that exposing nutritional supplements to hot or cold temperatures can lessen their effectiveness over time, a few days (i.e., during shipping) won’t have an impact. The only caveat: Nutritional supplements that require refrigeration such as some probiotics and liquid forms of fish oil. That said, as a general practice, you shouldn’t store your nutritional supplements in your medicine cabinet because the warm, moist air in bathrooms will lessen their effectiveness over the long term.
Now it’s your turn: Do you know of any other supplement myths (or supplement facts)?
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