This article is basically selling the idea that supplements are necessary for good health. What I will do is to define the need for such supplements, and then to give a list of some supplements that I think everybody should have.
First, a definition. This, I must unfortunately say, is horrendously vague. A supplement can be anything from a protein powder, to a multivitamin pill, to cod liver oil. So let me give my verbose definition, that a supplement is: a compound that is consumed to prevent the onset of disease or to potentially enhance various physiological pathways so as to bring about increased well-being and performance for the individual.
While there are some supplements which are a complete waste of money, it is a fact that our body does not get enough of certain nutrients or minerals. The only remedy for this is to take something extra to get the necessary nutrient.
In fact, supplementation is simply a method to get the nutrients which food does not adequate supply. And let’s face the fact that food (especially the crappy food modern humans eat) does not give us adequate amounts of certain nutrients to thrive to a ripe old age in good health in today’s world; we are in a deficiency state of some nutrients, especially so for some groups in the population.
Just to get the topic of artificial vs natural out of the way – I don’t buy it. As long as there are no clear dangers in the manufacture of the supplement , the cost of not taking it and risking deficiency is far greater than taking it and risking some other vague problems. It is my opinion that most people against this view simply want to tout their ideological belief in only consuming “natural” foodstuffs.
However, I’d like to give some short examples, and I hope that they can shed some light on the issue at hand.
The Old lady has reached menopause. Her hormone levels have dropped, which reduces the absorption efficiency of calcium and related nutrients.
The depressed worker may have inadequate tryptophan in the brain. Supplementing with something like 5-HTP may help alleviate the symptoms.
The vegetarian, due to zero meat consumption, may be lacking in protein, iron and vitamin B12. Supplementing with each of the above will help in long-term health.
Finally, the average person’s diet that is low in fruit and vegetable, full of processed food containing lots of saturated and trans fats, and an inadequate protein supply, surely spells
Why Take Supplements?
If your goal is like mine, to do handstands at 90 years old, then your job is to delay the eventual fate of all people as much as possible. This is by no means a natural process. I think we all need to accept that we are engineering our bodies to become more resilient against whatever the world can throw at us, from toxic substances in our food to pollution in the air.
In the examples above, the line between supplements and downright medication can become very obscure. The separating factor is that supplements cure a disease of deficiency; they provide enough nutrients to bring the person from whatever context he/she is in to a healthful existence.
Unfortunately, with the stressors of the modern world, many people can potentially be in a deficient state of some nutrients. The cubicle workers in Scandinavia this winter will certainly not be getting enough Vitamin D for their own good.
My Current Philosophy
If a supplement has potential benefits as seen in scientific literature, it should then be weighed against the potential negative impacts of taking it. If the negatives are minimal to non-existent, then the supplement is worth a shot.
For example, increased Vitamin D consumption to 10,000 IU a day does not cause toxicity. The potential benefits are well-documented. Hence the only cost borne by the user in the monetary cost .
This gives a nice segway to a short list of supplements for the general populus.
A Short list:
A general multivitamin
Vitamin C – about 1000mg/day
Vitamin E – 400IU/day
Vitamin D – see my post for recommendations
Calcium, Zinc and Magnesium – Enough to hit RDA’s
Fish Oil – 6g Fish Oil for 1080mg EPA and 720mg DHA
This list is certainly a limited list, for it assumes the condition of a young, healthy male (myself). Illness or other deficiencies will change the list dramatically.
A Final Word
What I want to write this article for is to reach out to those people who are adverse to taking supplements. Often quoting their lack of efficacy. This is largely true in the short-term.
Realise though that supplements are there to prevent a disease of deficiency to achieve health and longevity beyond the 30-40 year life expectancy we saw for most of human history. The very fact that they were effective is seen by an absence of disease in later life.
Hence, I urge people to take interest in a supplementation protocol. Work with your physician, read up the literature around you. Take a proactive approach, and always make a supplement decision based upon potential negatives instead of potential positives.
 As an example, fish oil capsules in the past were not filtered as well as they are today, and some batches contained insane amounts of mercury. This problem is largely rectified with today’s manufacturing processes, but it still gives peace of mind to select the brands with an explicit ‘Mercury Tested’ label on their package.
Beyond that, do not forget to check the components used to make the casings/binding agents/capsules of various supplements. For example, people who have celiac disease should avoid supplements with casings made from a derivative of a gluten containing foodstuff (like wheat).
 Depression here refers to the true clinical sense of depression.
 Heme iron in meat is absorbed much better than non-heme iron in vegetables. As a result, a much higher consumption of iron is needed in vegetarians.
 I think that the monetary cost definitely should not be the highest one of the priority list when it comes to matters of health. I’d rather be concerned about whether or not something will work.
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