The vitamin and dietary supplement industry take in $28 billion a year. With so much at stake, would we be told the truth whether vitamins and supplements are safe, do they really work? Advertising has millions of people believing that they should fortify their diets with vitamins and dietary supplements.
Guess what, supplements have been around for a long time. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, medicine men sold everything from snake oil to miracle elixirs that cured everything from gout to delirium tremors. Most were nothing more than a concoction of flavored water to sugar pills, these remedies never did what people were told they would do.
Today many doctors and scientists question whether supplements really work. Some of the early excitement over studies on the effectiveness of dietary supplements were not real studies at all. Most were observational studies, no tests were conducted pitting the dietary supplement against a placebo within a controlled setting. When actual controlled studies were performed on nutritional supplements, the results were not as exciting.
The fact is most people who know they do not eat a healthy diet, believe that taking supplements will help. Many think that these supplements would not be sold without the approval of FDA. Adoption does not support effectiveness, about the only requirement the FDA puts on supplement manufactures is they accurately identify the ingredients in their product. Only ingredients developed after 1994 are required to be tested for safety. Furthermore, dietary supplement makers do not have to prove the claims their supplements have on health or nutrition. Lax government regulations allow the manufacturer's claim that supplements are medical cures to go unchallenged. Part of the dietary supplement debate may be a result of ineffective government regulations.
What about the dietary supplements themselves?
With government regulations that are lax, dietary supplement makers are not held to a high standard of quality that it would take to make products that work. They can use inferior ingredients that do not absorb into the digestive system.
When freshly prepared foods are eaten, they are broken down by the stomach acids and absorbed through the intestines. Dietary supplements are usually hard compressed into tablets that may not be broken down by stomach acids and pass right through the system.
Supplements come in two categories:
Water-soluble: The body expels any excess amounts of supplements and vitamins.
Fat-soluble: Excess amounts of dietary supplements can build up in the body over time since the human body has no easy to expel them.
Are there any good supplements?
Quality matters, not all supplements are made equal. An easy starting point is to only use reputable suppliers to ensure effectiveness.Scientific evidence is conflicting, studies have revealed vitamin A, E, and C are somewhat effective in keeping cancer at bay. Folic acid, vitamin E, and D can be helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease.
The bottom line here is, the dietary supplement industry is multi-billion dollar industry that has struck it rich off those who feel it necessary fortify their daily diet. The truth is that just throwing away junk food and eating a diet of fresh, healthy foods is what will work best. Supplements are not a substitute for a good diet but a potential support.