According to DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry) studies, less than 3% of Australians eat a balanced diet everyday. Fewer than 1 in 50,000 achieve recommended daily allowance (RDA) of ten essential vitamins and minerals. As a result, top medical associations and health organisation now recommend supplements as “prudent” for complete nutrition.
Modern life presents many potential obstacles to long-term health:
¨ Poor food choices: Almost 90% of us have a diet that is poor or needs improvement.
¨ Excess weight: Increased risk of many long-term health problems.
¨ Age-related changes: The process of aging slows down the body’s ability to utilise nutrients in the diet.
¨ Confusion about the right supplementation: With the wide variety of supplements on the market, it’s no wonder that people aren’t sure which nutrients to take and in what quantity.
¨ Environmental challenges: Poor air and water quality, as well as exposure to free radicals from pollution and the sun’s powerful UV radiation, all have an impact on health.
Why should you supplement?
Besides the obvious fact that you aren’t reaching the RDA of essentials vitamins and minerals every day, research suggests that increasing the intake of specific nutrients may be helpful in the following ways:
¨ Preventing deficiency diseases
¨ Promote optimal health
¨ Promotes the health of key body systems: heart and cardiovascular system, breast, lung, prostate, bones, muscles, blood vessels, eyes, teeth, and gums.
¨ Promotes healthy immune function
¨ Prevents free radical damage
¨ Reduces the risk of birth defects
Choosing the right supplements
Food supplements are not regulated or standardised by the Food and Drug Administration. This means virtually any product can be sold. As a result, assuming two brands of product are the same is a big mistake. Choosing the wrong product can have strong negative effects on health.
So what should the conscientious consumer do? It’s just like shopping for healthy food options in the supermarket—you need to become a good label reader.
¨ Ignore flamboyant product names. Extravagant terms like ‘extra strength’ or ‘meganutrition power’ are used to just to sell the product and are usually empty catchwords.
¨ Look for nutrient amounts. Some companies will list a source, such as blue green algae or juice powder concentrate, but neglect to provide the amounts of many of the nutrients they claim to supply.
¨ Make sure the amounts are listed by percent of the Daily Value or DV, not just in mg or ug amounts. This allows you to compare amounts supplied by competing products and to determine whether the supplement provides nutrients in proper proportion to one another.
¨ Exercise caution with ‘one-a-day’ type tablets. Once a day supplement tablets rarely supply adequate amounts of all 24 DV nutrients. Some minerals such as calcium require quite a bit of bulk, one tablet containing all the nutrients in proper amounts would be very large.
¨ Watch out for supplements that contain artificial colours, sweeteners or chemical preservatives. We get enough of these in our everyday diets without ‘supplementing’ for more. Some of the most common are FD & C Red #40, FD & C Yellow #96, Shellac, BHT, BHA, and sucralose.
Keys to a good product
The keys to choosing a good vitamin supplement can be referred to as the 3 p’s:
¨ Purityrefers to the quality of the ingredients in a product. Choose organic/unaltered sources for their strong enzymatic action, balance, and phytonutrients.
¨ Potency refers to levels of nutrients that are strong enough to be effective. A good product should have at least 100% of the RDA for all essential vitamins and minerals. Check especially for 100% of Biotin, which is often left out of inferior products.
¨ Performance refers to the proof that the product actually gets into the blood-stream and delivers nutrients to the cells. Good products will have published ‘peer reviewed’ clinical studies proving their efficacy and ‘bioavailability’ or absorption.