The Dangers of Synthetic Nutritional Supplements

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As a Registered Dietitian, I am often, but happily finding myself having to discern truth for others in search of a healthier lifestyle. For example, which “diets” are deemed acceptable, which ones are pure quackery, what will yield a lifestyle change and what will only produce short term results. To achieve long term goals in maintaining a healthy weight and eating well to prevent disease and terminal illness, it should likely be under the care or knowledge of health professionals trained in the anatomy and physiology of the human body at minimum; not just anyone who decides to sell a gimmick, drink, powder or pill with dollar signs in their eyes. Even with the best of intentions, I wonder how many people who do sell supplements, really know what they are selling.

IMPORTANT: Congress does not require the FDA to regulate any supplements; in fact all supplements are deemed safe until proven otherwise. Please also keep in mind that any claim on any supplement package is purely advertising. None of these claims have been tested or proven safe and effective by any regulatory agency and anyone can sell them. Would you take a medical prescription from a self-proclaimed doctor or any random person? I think not and supplements can be just as harmful as medication if taken inappropriately.

Just because a product uses catch words such as vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, protein, herbs, etc., does not mean that it is effective or safe. Vitamins and minerals are extremely potent. Each individual nutrient has a set standard in which should be met; a required amount necessary to sustain life. There is also a required upper limit that should NOT be exceeded. When obtaining these nutrients from whole foods, it is nearly impossible to exceed the upper limit, but when taking supplements, we can reach the danger zone of becoming toxic within one serving, really compromising our internal organs.

Most of us know that jittery, shaky feeling and flushed skin, perhaps rash and elevated blood pressure that we sometimes confuse with “energy” after taking a supplement. This  is likely our body’s way of expressing “hey, too much” and the scariest part is what we aren’t even aware of, such as the damage we are doing to our kidneys and liver as well as what is going on with our blood composition. Lets just imagine our body trying to metabolize and process this intense surge of nutrients. We have people selling these products that have done little to no research for themselves and yet are encouraging people to consume these products to enhance performance or lose weight. This is not a lifestyle change, but yet a quick gimmick, the American way of wanting a quick fix. It is unbelievable how much money we will invest into false hope, false promises, while damaging our bodies and only producing short term, non-lasting results.

Let’s talk about weight loss. The only way our body burns fat is when we are consuming less calories than we need and our body resorts to stored fat for its energy source. However, when done appropriately, this can be a good thing. In fact, many Americans really need to be consuming less, moving more and putting their body into a fat burning mode by effectively finding their energy balance that supports about a 1 -1.5 lb. per week weight loss until a healthy weight is achieved, all while maintaining enough energy and nutrients to sustain their daily needs. If done too quickly or too rapidly and paired with excessive supplementing, wow, what a recipe for all things bad in our body.

Lifestyle change is the only successful way of maintaining a healthy weight paired up with regular physical activity. Learning what our body needs and how much of it is essential and realizing that there is no quick fix. If someone is telling us to dramatically decrease our calories and pair it up with an expensive supplement, well, that should be a red flag. Why not invest that time and money into learning how to eat healthier and within our energy needs verses investing in an expensive supplement that we are not likely to stay on and an eating pattern that we are likely not going to adhere to, due to its strict, unrealistic approach.

SUMMARY: Remember supplements are not regulated by the FDA or any government agency, but rather paid and sponsored by chem labs or science centers on occasion and any wanting individual can sell them. Supplements can wreak havoc on our internal organs and very easily become toxic. Eating a whole food, well balanced diet will sufficiently provide us with all required nutrients when balancing meals and mindfully making decisions about obtaining many colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, lean proteins, essential fatty acids and oils. Our bodies are intended to get small amounts of vitamins and minerals throughout the day and can only absorb small amounts of any single nutrient at a time. When you look at the nutrient label or ingredient list of supplements, they usually have mega doses that our bodies are not even able to absorb all at once, so a lot of wasted money is being excreted in our urine. Keep in mind that a lifestyle change will never happen overnight. We will have long lasting results when we adapt to healthier choices in eating and activity through daily alterations and small improvements. That my friend is truth!

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