Popping a pill to boost your diet might sound like an easy fix but supplements often do not work - and could even do harm, concludes an article in the New Scientist.
There is serious doubt in scientific circles that artificial supplements are effective in giving us health benefits and it even seems that some supplements can be harmful.
A good example is how studies have shown that low quality omega 3 capsules (which usually is made from the leftovers of old rancid fish) do nothing to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. The quality of the omega fish oil is crucial to ensure we gain the health benefits.
Many of us have swallowed the notion that healthy nutrients found in natural foods can be packed up in neat little pills to provide the same benefits without the hassle of taking natural foods.
A large study published by the highly regarded Cochrane Collaboration looked at 79 studies to assess the long term impact of the little omega 3 capsules on cardiovascular health. They concluded it had little or no effect! Other detailed studies have found the same lack of health benefits from artificial supplements of vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
They even found that some artificial supplements can be harmful. For instance taking calcium as an artificial supplement can lead to increased risk of kidney stones, whereas calcium from natural foods can reduce the risk!.
Artificial supplements are not regulated like medicines, and do not have to prove that they improve our health.
There is also the problem that supplements ofte comes in very high doses, which you can not find in natural foods and this can lead to side effects. For example, excessive levels of vitamin E has been linked to greater risk of stroke and possible prostate cancer.
Dr Blumberg from Tufts University highlights that a country's wealth is a poor indicator for peoples nutritional status. We are often over-fed but actually under-nourished. In fact, a study found that 80% of us believe we eat nutritionally well and varied, but in actual fact only 5% of us do (German Society for nutrition, 2004)!. For example, studies have found that we are not getting enough vitamin A, C, D, E, Choline, calcium, iron and magnesium.
For those on a poor diet, topping up with supplements might bring them closer the the daily recommended dose of some nutrients, but that does not always translate into the health benefits we want.
In contract, taking natural foods and superfoods such as Wheatgrass juice rich in nutrients ensures a natural blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, which the body can readily utilise.
Interestingly, a recent study by McClement and his colleagues from University of Massachusetts shows that when we eat vegetables and fruits together with a heathy fat (such as high quality omega 3) or certain spices, then the nutrients are able to enter the blood stream more readily.
The conclusion from all the findings are:
1) Do not expect supplements to give you health benefits, instead eat natural foods and superfoods, such as wheatgrass juice.
2) Take high quality fresh omega 3 oil.