A couple of ground breaking studies in recent weeks uncovered the more sinister side to supposedly safe supplements. Westerners commonly consume copious quantities of complementary medicines like herbal supplements, weight loss pills, "energy-boosting" products, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). But why is this a problem? Oh let us count the ways...
We love complicating things, especially nutrition. Many pill-popping, supplement-swiggers rationalise taking these touted tablets either as a way to "cover" for their poor diet, or as a way for healthy people to make themselves feel that little bit "more healthy". Either way, these are seriously misguided.
About 23,000 Americans end up in the emergency room each year due to heart problems (rapid or irregular beat), chest pain, choking, or worse...Caused by your friendly supermarket, super, cure-all (but really nothing) supplements.
So, to make matters worse, choking down your pills isn't the extent of the concern. They can also increase your risk of death... A little worse than the irregular heart beat.
Yep, new research (adding to the body of already existing evidence) states certain supplements increase your risk of cancer. And most people know cancer increases your risk of death... True story.
See, your body naturally produces "free radicals". These are unstable molecules in the body that cause damage to cell structures including DNA (this is called oxidative stress.) Enter antioxidants: Compounds, including many vitamins, that neutralise free radicals.
However..! Your body needs a certain amount of free radicals to function normally. New research found high antioxidant levels actually increase oxidative stress and help cancer cells thrive, and metastasise (spread.) Not really what you hoped for when GNC sold you that acai berry supplement.
Oh, and let's not forget that herbal supplements (and supplements in general) are very poorly regulated. Who cares? Well, you should... Because:
- A study found you're paying a lot of money for a ginseng (or other herbal) supplement and actually getting an assortment of powdered rice, asparagus, houseplant, or some other foreign plant material instead
- Another study found many diet pills/sport supplements were contaminated with a synthetic amphetamine-like substance
|Are you herbal supplements fills with grass clippings? Quite possibly...|
Due to their poor regulation many supplements are mislabelled, contaminated, contain foreign materials not stated on the label, or contain unknown amounts of the ingredients - despite what the label states.
What can you do to avoid ER visits, chest pain, heart attacks, liver damage, stroke, choking, or death induced by taking supplements?
- Concentrate on getting your nutrition, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from food
- Take supplements only when prescribed by a doctor or other medical professional (no, not a naturopath who read your palm or stared deeply into your eyes)
- Buy good, healthy, cheap food (here's how)
- Enjoy eating!
Further reading on antioxidants.