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Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I Don't Recommend (Most) Supplements

Can nutritional supplements be dangerous?
About a year ago, I received a call from my brother Tony concerning his recent physical. At 45, he was in excellent health: he had a decent diet, is naturally lean despite taking an extended break from exercise, and other than an occasional beer, doesn’t drink much alcohol, nor does he smoke or otherwise abuse his body.

Regardless, his doctor expressed concern about elevated liver enzymes.

“I’m not a medical professional,” I replied, careful not to overstep my boundaries. “Listen to your doctor and follow his instructions to the letter.”

Tony then dropped a bomb that he knew would provoke my wrath:
“My doc told me to stop taking all my supplements.”


I proceeded with an impassioned tangent about our poorly informed medical establishment and its rampant anti-supplement bias. (Hasn’t he learned at this point not to get me on my soapbox?)

But here’s the real shocker. A month later, after discontinuing all his supplements, Tony’s labs came back perfect.  During that time, determined to prove his doctor wrong, I had researched supplements and arrived at an uncomfortable resolution.

I finally had to side with Tony’s doc: most supplements are dangerous.
When A Bargain Isn’t A Bargain
Ever the frugal brother, Tony had been purchasing supplements at a popular discount supermarket prior to his physical.
Now, I love this store. I also love those mega-warehouse places where you can buy paper towels and frozen organic broccoli in discount bulk quantities.
That said, I would never, ever buy supplements from these places.
I am an unapologetic supplement snob. I also love to save money. Who doesn’t? But I  know  when to scrimp and save and when not to.
My friend Dr. Jonny Bowden talks about things you should never scrimp on. Parachutes, for instance. If I ever skydive (unlikely, but you never know), I want the very best parachute money can buy.
Same with tattoos: you probably have that friend who, in a drunken stupor or otherwise rash impulse, went to some fly-by-night tattoo parlor – you know: the ones with a big sign outside that reads TATTOO + PIERCING ONLY $35 – and upon becoming sober or coming to their senses, deeply regretted their decision.
Call me crazy, but if I’m getting permanent body art, I want the finest tattoo artist on the planet, price be damned; not some discount cut-rate guy who does it for cheap in his basement.
Supplements? Add them to Dr. Bowden’s list of things you don’t want to scrimp on.
Minimum-Wage Nutrition
As my friends can tell you, I love talking about supplements. I sell them, I believe in their efficacy, and I never forget to take them.
I also know not everyone shares my passion. I brought up magnesium stearate at a dinner party once, and… crickets. Not a hot conversation for non-nutritionists, I quickly discovered.
I will happily spend the extra money for professional-quality supplements. After all, if I’m not absorbing what I’m taking – or worse, a supplement is wreaking havoc on my health – that “bargain” could be costing me significantly in the long run.
You see, most over-the-counter supplements come loaded with cheap fillers, binders, cutters, expedients, and other stuff you don’t want. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at a popular one-a-day’s ingredients:
Calcium carbonate, micrcrystalline cellulose, magnesium oxide, maltodextrin, ascorbic acid, ferrous fumarate, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, croscarmellose sodium, gelatin, dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide (color), niacinamde, stearic acid, silicon dioxide, d-calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, polyethylene glycol, cupric oxide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A acetate, soybean oil, chromium chloride, folic acid, beta-carotene, FD&C yellow #5 (tartrazine) lake, FD&C yellow #6 lake, FD&C blue #2 lake, sodium selenate, biotin, phytonadione, cholecalciferol, cyanocobalamin. Contains: Soy.

This laundry list of ingredients is a healthcare professional’s worst nightmare. Among the “no” ingredients you’re getting include:
·       Magnesium stearate – a cheap excipient that benefits manufacturers but not you
·       Cheap, poorly absorbed forms of nutrients like zinc oxide and magnesium oxide
·       Maltodextrin (corn)
·       Synthetic vitamin E (the “dl” form) that studies show isn’t as effective as natural vitamin E
·       Artificial colors
·       Soybean oil
I could go on, but you get my point. Along with paltry amounts of nutrients that you’re probably not absorbing, you’re putting a bunch of crap in your body that could create more harm than good.
What a deal, huh?
Minimum-Wage Nutrition?
Let’s say I’m your employer. If I pay you $12 an hour, you could probably get by. (Well, in most places. Probably not Los Angeles!) You won’t have money to do fun things like eat out or go to the movies, but that paycheck would probably cover your food, housing, and public transportation. You would survive, but you wouldn’t thrive.
Let’s say I bump your pay to $75 an hour. Suddenly you can afford to go out with friends more often and enjoy a few luxuries. You can invest that extra money in savings for future needs.
One-a-day multis and other over-the-counter supplements contain the “minimum amount” to get by. Manufacturers use Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs), which were formulated to prevent disease. Like that $12-an-hour job, you’re getting just enough nutrients to survive.
But you don’t want to just get by and prevent disease: you want to thrive with abundant health.
When you get optimal amounts of nutrients, you’re providing your body the raw materials to boost immunity, optimize fat burning, aid enzymatic reactions, and a zillion other areas that demand sufficient nutrients. Your body has the tools to thrive with optimal health.
Take vitamin C as one example. The RDA is a paltry 60 mg. That might help prevent scurvy (and really, who has scurvy these days?), but it won’t help collagen synthesis, adrenal function, and the numerous other tasks vitamin C assists in.
Why Supplements Get a Bad Rep
Every so often a supplement catastrophe occurs and the media pounce on it. Maybe a multi contains far too much selenium, a mineral that can be toxic in excess. While rare, these are legitimate concerns.
Let’s be clear. Acetaminophen overdoses are far, far more common than supplement overdoes and you don’t see the media freaking out. Regardless, they do occasionally happen.
When these problems occur, you hear how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements. That’s not true. While they don’t do such a great job regulating over-the-counter supplements, most professional brands are heavily regulated and abide by strict manufacturing processes that third parties oversee.
Not only that: clients hold professionals responsible for these brands. That means if I sell you an adrenal-function adaptogenic formula and you take it regularly, you expect it to work within a certain time frame. If it doesn’t, you’re pissed at me, and I hold the manufacturer responsible.
Over-the-counter brands don’t have that accountability. Oprah did an episode about supplements where she tested different brands, many of which came up short on multiple fronts, including incorrect amounts from what the label said and “dirty” fillers.
Oprah’s investigators also found supplements contaminated with heavy metals, talcum powder (yep: the same stuff you sprinkle in your shoes to stay dry), and other toxic materials.
Most definitely not stuff you want in your supplements.
Why I Sell Thorne Supplements (Almost Exclusively)
I’ve worked at several supplement companies in my life. I understand why supplements earn their reputation as a shady business. I’ve seen everything, from products that demanded months of testing green-lighted in mere weeks because the manufacturer wanted to sell more to using inferior ingredients that produced more product.
Then I found Thorne.
I could sell any supplements on the planet on my website, but I choose Thorne. Their level of integrity is unlike any supplement company I’ve worked with or known before. I’ve visited their manufacturing facility in Dover, Idaho. Trust me, these folks practice what they preach.
Thorne operates under comprehensive Good Manufacturer Practices (GMPs). However, they go a step further and also comply with Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the same code Australian pharmaceutical manufacturers comply with. If all that means nothing to you, just know Thorne operates under rigorous quality control.
I invite you to check out their website, read their mission statement, and determine whether you want to continue using ineffective and potentially harmful over-the-counter supplements.

Some of you are already Thorne users. One reader recently emailed me:

Finally! After years throwing away money on brands that didn’t work, I found Thorne. My doctor was greatly impressed with my latest lab results and for the first time in years, I was below pre-diabetic numbers.  

Without your health, you have nothing. Don’t jeopardize that to save a few bucks.

Next time you’re at your mega-warehouse or favorite grocery, stock up on raw almonds and cat litter, but steer clear of the supplements aisle. You deserve better.

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Fitness expert and strength 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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