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Vitamins and supplements: The good, the bad and the ugly

By Novomed Integrative Medicine, Health & Wellness Partner


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Novomed Integrative Medicine
Health & Wellness Partner


February 05, 2019

When it comes to medical information, half the truth can be a dangerous thing. And there are a lot of half-truths when it comes to vitamins. Want a clear story? Here is what an intelligent consumer should know.

Toxicity

China is the largest source of vitamins on earth and Hebei Yuxing Bio-Engineering is the largest source of B vitamins in the world. Yet a lot of these vitamins are contaminated with lead, a heavy metal that seriously affects your brain and bone. In late 2016, the company was also slapped with an FDA warning for persistent microbial contamination of its products and for falsification of test results.

Mercury is another heavy metal that poisons your heart, your bones, your hormones, and your brain. When it comes to heavy metals, I personally do not believe in such a thing as “negligible amounts”. It takes 30 years for your body to get rid of half of the amount of any mercury that you ingest.

Cancer risk and vitamins

The studies that show that vitamins may increase cancer risk are misleading. They included heavy smokers who were taking vitamins with a high dose of Vitamin A. Vitamin A does increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. An honestly designed study should exclude smokers who are taking Vitamin A.

High dose Vitamin C can positively affect the success of treating cancers. However, high doses are not tolerated as they produce severe diarrhea. That is why it is advised to use a high dose of Vitamin C intravenously.

Dosage

Frequently, the bottle displays in large print “1000 mg” of fish oil, for example. But when you read the fine print it says something like “of that 1000 mg, only 200 mg of EPA and DHA are found per softgel”. EPA and DHA are the primary components by which the majority of studies focusing on benefits are based on. That claim of “1000 mg” is in fact simply window dressing in order to catch your eye. In this case, 1000 mg of EPA/DHA would require taking 5 softgels. So unless you are taking 5 softgels, you are not getting the 1000 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Patients with cardio-metabolic issues should get one-to-two grams per day of EPA / DHA depending on their weight. Because you wouldn’t actually take 10 softgels, you simply won’t get what you need. The same applies to memory-enhancing pills which contain phosphatidylserine. The dose is 300 mg a day. Most “memory formulations” contain only 25-50 mg, as a serine is an expensive ingredient. This means you have to take 10-20 pills to get the memory-enhancing dose. Certain formulas contain 100 mg per pill but then they would be judged as “too expensive” compared to other brain-enhancing formulas. But are we comparing apples to apples? Again the studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies to discredit supplements are conducted on the products that most consumers use, which contain inadequate dosages.

Truth in labeling

The global vitamin and supplement sales reached 122 billion USD in 2015 and are growing at more than 10% per year. The FDA in the US does not regulate this enormous industry. Their limited inspectors are busy monitoring the more critical drug industry. When a manufacturer’s label states that a pill contains 100 mg of CoQ10, the pill may or may not contain that much. Some may contain as little as 30 or 50 mg. It is the Wild West.

Bioavailability

Sophisticated consumers are now aware of the critical importance that the microbiome and friendly bacteria play in their gut health, psychology, immune system, and lipid metabolism. They also know that they should choose pills that contain at least 20 billion colonies from a variety of bacteria strains. What they do not realize is that many of these labels state in fine print “20 billion at the time of manufacturing”. When the product leaves the factory, the count goes down due to inferior manufacturing and packaging. When the consumer opens the bottle and exposes it to humidity and heat, these live organisms die off to a negligible level within two weeks. Furthermore, one strain of bacteria may represent 90% of the total count of the advertised 18 different strains. The bottom line: Unless you choose a stable formulation which has strain identity and is ensured by finished goods assays, you are mainly consuming dead bacteria that no longer hold therapeutic value.

Individualized medicine and bar codes as a solution

Some patients have inherited difficulty absorbing certain vitamins or ingredients, hence need much higher levels, different formulations or different administration routes. When using vitamins and supplements to reduce or eliminate your need for high blood pressure medications, we recommend checking the vitamin and nutritional status with a special blood test that your integrative medicine doctor can send to a specialty lab. They can prepare the vitamins and supplements that your body specifically needs. The future of medicine is here albeit not covered by your insurance yet. In 2015, a large randomized European study proved that it is safe to treat acute appendicitis with antibiotics alone. Yet 95% of surgeons in the US and Europe continue to operate on every patient.

Reputable providers of food vitamins and food supplements can be found. They use a barcode that you can scan that ties through their website the batch number on your bottle to the outside independent certified laboratory essay that shows toxicity levels and dosages. That is the kind of professional supplements and vitamins that should be recommended to patients.

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