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Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Take or Not to Take-Nutritional Supplements-Pt. 3

In last week's blog post, I brought you part II of my piece To Take or Not to Take-Nutritional Supplements; the continuation of my piece about taking nutritional supplements-or not.* (Click here to read Part I.) This week, I'll discuss the differences between over-the-counter "vitamins" and professional brand "nutraceuticals."

...Most over-the-counter multi-vitamins are useless (Centrum comes to mind) and the “something is better than nothing” approach really doesn’t apply to nutritional supplements. What should you look for then, in a multi-vitamin?  If you’re a man or a post-menopausal woman, for example, you might look for a multi-vitamin that doesn’t contain copper or iron.  Why? 
Because you may not need those nutrients or those nutrients in those doses and while most of the time the body will simply excrete what it doesn’t need, some nutrients can, again, interfere with the absorption of nutrients that you do need. There are specific formulations that support specific ages, genders or that work in conjunction with something specific going on in your body such as pregnancy. If you are an athlete, are getting up in years, pregnant, or have any other special needs, consider a formula that supports those needs.  Taking special formulations can be a great idea IF, you are buying them from a reputable source.  Fish oil for example, is prone to mercury contamination.  Its purity must be assured or its benefits are negligible.

There are so many benefits to taking fish oil; it could be an article unto itself.  But if you’re interested in lowering internal inflammation (and you should be), decreasing depression, lubricating your joints, helping your body produce enough tears to combat “chronic dry eye,” prevent plaque build-up in your arteries, and much more, start taking a good quality, high purity fish oil.  How do you know if the supplement you’re taking is of the highest purity and quality? (I’ll get to that shortly.) 

What other supplements should you take?  As discussed above, that depends on your needs. I would add extra calcium and magnesium, digestive enzymes, probiotics and extra fiber.  Almost everyone can benefit from these.

Always opt for a capsule as opposed to a tablet.  Tablets are hard to digest and if you look closely at your poop (as you’ve been known to do), don’t be surprised if you see the entire tablet, intact, staring back at you.  

Professional brands

So you decide that you definitely would benefit from beginning a regimen of a few “core” supplements. You go into your neighborhood health food store and tell the guy behind the counter that you need a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral complex, essential fatty acids (refers to fish oils), a probiotic, a calcium/magnesium combo, and some digestive enzymes.  You ask him to recommend a “good” one of each.  He begins to give you his opinion and you are impressed with how knowledgeable he is-and he very well might be.  But most, (not all) health food stores carry only over-the-counter brands of nutritional supplements. These, as well as supplements sold over the internet, through multi-level marketing companies, and from other random sources, are all considered “over-the-counter” supplements.

For the consumer, choosing nutritional supplements from the massive selection on the market can be confusing and overwhelming. In addition to over-the-counter brands, supplement manufacturers also produce “professional” lines/brands of nutraceuticals. These are the types of supplements that I sell.  Unlike many brands found on store shelves, professional products undergo intense examination procedures to monitor and corroborate the quality of both raw materials and finished products.  They are subjected to the most rigorous FDA standards, and they’re only sold to licensed health care providers either in his/her office or on their website (though there are select pharmacies and drug stores that will carry professional lines with the understanding that the patient buys products as directed by their health care professional.) 

Professional lines rely on the latest scientific research for their formulations.  They are formulated to be more potent containing meaningful quantities and ratios of therapeutic ingredients and in some cases, go beyond even the most stringent guidelines by excluding the use of fillers, preservatives, binders and lubricants. (i.e. magnesium stearate that helps capsules move through machines faster.)  These proprietary manufacturing processes combine to create a capsule with superior absorption.

While there are some reputable over-the-counter lines (Jarrow comes to mind), I believe there is no comparison in terms of quality, purity and effectiveness to a professional line.  Some over-the-counter brands contain only minute amounts of the actual active ingredient listed on the product’s label.  The rest of the capsule (or tablet) is filler (i.e. cornstarch.)  Since discovering professional brands several years ago, I will never go back to over-the-counter supplements, even though they are less expensive.

To take or not to take?  That is the question…if nothing else, basic nutritional supplements act as an insurance policy to protect our health against environmental toxins, the sorry state of our food supply, and the stresses and strains of modern daily life.  Will they prevent cancer?  Stop aging in its tracks?  Facilitate rapid fat loss?  While I wouldn’t say “yes,” to those questions, I wouldn’t quite say “no” either.  Biochemistry is a fascinating and ever-evolving science plus; every body is different.  What works for one person may not have any effect on another and vice versa. Find a qualified health care practitioner that, in analyzing your unique metabolic needs, can recommend supplements that heal your body, optimize your present good health, or give you an edge in your athletic endeavors.

*The information printed here is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, prescribe, cure, or prevent any disease or condition and should not be construed as personal medical advice.  Check with your healthcare professional before beginning any supplement regimen.

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Fitness expert and integrative performance coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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