Responsible supplementation is no longer an option if your objective is optimal health.
Our Health Protection Branch (HPB) publishes, on a regular basis, a table of Recommended Nutrient Intake values to help guide us to appropriate levels for fat and protein intake along with many of the known or recognized vitamins and minerals.
Note - there is no RNI for carbohydrates.
Many health advisors try to tell their clients that they only need a “well balanced” diet to meet these recommendations.
However if you do some careful arithmetic you will find the task very difficult. Then if you read Dr. Shari Leiberman’s book “The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book” in which she uses a term “Optimal Daily Intake” (ODI), you will find the task even more difficult.
The ODI is based on the latest research and reflects what our industrialized world has done to the air, water and food; in terms of quality and pollutants.
This article will be in defense of the dogmatic opening statement “supplementation is no longer an option”.
Nutritional supplementation is one of the fastest growing industries in North America. Estimates of size range from $7 to $10 billion annually, compared to just $3 billion in 1990.
Like all rapidly growing industries, the market place can become a consumer’s night mare with a myriad of choices, a range of quality and some over zealous misleading marketing claims.
Although the HPB attempts to provide some standards and controls, there are still many unregulated areas. These include many herbal products which are relatively unregulated and don’t even require DIN (drug identification number) registration like all vitamin and mineral supplements.
The HPB also has difficulty in maintaining recognition of supplementation for therapeutic reasons.
Then there are numerous products that do not require registration, are harmless but useless and some that have proven to be both harmful and useless.
So the market place is still a “consumer beware” environment.
In the early 1900’s, all produce (100%) was organic. Rutgers University has published several papers comparing the nutrient density of organic produce and commercially grown produce. Organic always wins.
According to a US Department of Agriculture paper the average Calories intake in the early 1900’s was 3800 Calories but today the average intake is only 1800 Calories. Less than half - and most is not organic. So we tend to eat less than half the nutrients each and every day.
Risk of “free radical” damage is much higher today as the industrial world contaminates our food, water and air. We also produce free radicals during physical and psychological stress. Free radicals are biochemical units that, in excess, will destroy healthy cells unless we protect ourselves with adequate nutrition.
With average fat intake falling to 32% of Calories (compared to 48% in 1900), it becomes more difficult to get the essential fatty acids (EFA’s) from our diet. EFA’s are responsible for encouraging fat metabolism and the creation of some “super hormones” that lead to the production of anti-inflammatory hormones. Processed food tends to alter or eliminate the EFA’s.
Wide use of antibiotics has lead to the destruction of “friendly bacteria” in the intestine. Friendly bacteria, like acidophilus and bifidus play a big role in digestion and in maintaining the health of the colon.
A low Calorie intake is associated with a reduced fiber intake. The American Cancer Society recommends a daily fiber intake of 30 grams but average North American eats only 12 – 15 grams per day. Such a low intake increases the risk of colon cancer and other toxic side effects.
Most people do not consume enough complete, high quality protein, particularly at breakfast and lunch. (There is a tendency to eat more protein than can be absorbed during the evening meal). Therefore I have become a big fan of Soy Protein Isolate supplementation at breakfast, lunch, during snacks and just before exercise. A modern solution to a modern problem.
What to Use
In my nutritional coaching practice, I divide supplementation into the following categories:
Nutritional Supplements – basic nutrients found in the RNI tables.
Herbal Supplements - which are really nature’s medicine, designed to prevent and/or solve certain health problems. Few are designed for long term consumption.
Fiber Supplements – fibre is indigestible but necessary for detoxification and regularity. It is not really a nutrient.
Protein Supplements – self-explanatory.
Friendly Bacteria – some now refer to these tiny organisms as “pro-biotics”.
Considering the Why Supplement list and the above categories, the following is a responsible supplement program that would benefit the heath of all people. This is basic, minimal and designed primarily for prevention of ailments and maintenance of good health.
High Quality Multiple Vitamin/Mineral. Should include all 8 recognized B vitamins including biotin. Balanced in proportion to the RNI. This multi should also contain high levels of Calcium and Magnesium.
Anti-Oxidants – Vitamin in the form of mixed carotenoids like alpha, beta and gamma carotene; Vitamin C, at least 1,000 mg in a sustained release format; Vitamin E in the mixed tocopherol format supported with selenium and grape seed extract.
Fiber Supplement containing a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibres.
Protein Supplement – preferably a Soy Protein isolate - not only to obtain extra protein but to also take advantage of the phytonutrients known as isoflavones.
Friendly bacteria – acidophilus and bifidus .
Responsible nutrition consultants may recommend other supplements for therapeutic reasons. The key word is “responsible”.
Their recommendations will include the use of products from reputable companies.
The best products are from companies that conduct true, publishable clinical research. They would be proud of such research and be prepared to share it with you upon request.