These Are the Best Supplements, Part 1
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
Anyone who has been in practice more than a few weeks, and especially anyone who emphasizes nutrition in their practice, has heard others say, "These are the best supplements." I always find it interesting how so many different brands can all be the very best. Whenever I hear this, I ask myself, is this true? Because when I do find a superior product, I will want to recommend it and, depending on its availability over the counter, I may even want to carry it in my clinic.
What Makes a Good Product?
Since most of the hundreds of vitamin companies only get their raw materials from a handful of major suppliers, purity is most commonly affected by how those materials are transported, stored, processed, packaged and shipped. No matter how exotic or expensive the form of a given nutrient is, if it is not handled properly at every stage, it will not deliver as promised.
Proponents of liquid supplements use digestion to sell their products. They typically show me literature that says close to 100 percent of their product is absorbed, compared to only 50 percent of the leading brand. What they do not say is that the amount of nutrient in liquid is much less than in a capsule or a tablet. Therefore, if only a fraction of a tablet or capsule is absorbed, the amount of nutrient the patient receives must be equal to or greater than the typical liquid dose. I am not opposed to liquids when marketed correctly.
There is no question I am biased toward the importance of getting micronutrients from a diet rich in unrefined whole foods. An unhealthy diet with supplements is still an unhealthy diet. Advocates of food concentrates claim their products are better digested because they are in whole-food form. Unfortunately, we do not recommend pills in the place of whole foods. They are used to supplement additional amounts of a given nutrient that are required to alter a patientís physiology due to a wide variety of causes, including disease, injury and deficiency. I have yet to see a study that shows small amounts of a vitamin or mineral naturally present in a food concentrate are better than normal supplements when one is therapeutically addressing a specific condition. And if pharmacological amounts of a nutrient are required, a handful of food concentrate pills is needed. For example, a food-based product that contains 50 mg of calcium or vitamin C would need to be dosed at 10 pills a day to get 500 mg provided by a typical vitamin C or calcium supplement.
Ease of Compliance
These will all influence your determination of whether a product is good for a specific person. When analyzing a product, look at the ingredients and the amounts recommended. If you have any questions, go to a reference text or the computer and look for human studies involving the forms of product and doses you are considering. Are the amounts per dose and the duration of dose similar to positive human studies? Could you find human studies? If the only evidence is a testimonial, the only thing you've confirmed is the power of placebo.
The Best Supplement
Next month, we will discuss the all-too-common mistake of recommending supplements without a full understanding of what a patient has been and will be eating.
Copyright 2004-2007, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824