In the vast world of vitamins and supplements, there is no shortage of choices. With prices ranging from a few dollars to a hundred dollars, how do you know which supplements are good for you, personally, which are good for other people, and which are simply overpriced, unnecessary purchases?
Below we’ll take a look at why people take supplements and which supplements actually work as advertised.
Supplements vs Vitamins
First, let’s look at the differences between vitamins and supplements. Vitamins are micronutrients essential for your body to maintain normal metabolism. There are 13 vitamins that your body must have in order to function: Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B7, Vitamin B9, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin A.
While your body can actually produce Vitamin D and Vitamin K in certain amounts, these vitamins must come from your daily diet. There are more vitamins than these 13, but they are not considered essential nutrients.
When you look at a vitamin label, you will notice the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) given as a percentage. The RDA of each vitamin is suggested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The RDA reflects the amount of each vitamin that should be consumed on a daily basis, and the percentage will tell you how much of that amount the vitamin in question will provide you.
Vitamins can be purchased as a single vitamin, in a blend such as a multivitamin, or in a “complex” such as B vitamins – meaning this particular vitamin encompasses all of the B vitamins. Multi-vitamins come in a number of formulas based on gender, age, specific target needs (more energy, stronger nails), etc.
There are certain medical conditions that require specific vitamin supplementation: If you are a vegetarian, you will have to take a B12 supplement, as a vegetable-based diet won’t include this nutrient. Women of peri-menopausal age normally have to take vitamins B12 and D.
Those who are long-term proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Pepcid, Prevacid, etc.) may find that they need to take iron and B12 supplements. In short, it’s a great idea to talk with your doctor about where you are in your healthcare journey and which vitamins you should be taking on a daily basis.
Supplements, on the other hand, are compounds that are naturally derived or are synthesized. They can be single compounds or found as part of a blend, and they encompass a wide variety of ingredients, including herbs, spices, minerals, amino acids and many others.
Supplements normally address specific health requirements, and as the name suggests – they are used to supplement your daily diet. Below we’ll take a look at some common reasons people take supplements, and some of the popular supplements for those health issues.
There is no shortage of products that absolutely promise weight loss, typically in a fantastically short time, with guaranteed results. But which products will actually help you lose weight?
GoLo Weight Loss
GoLo Weight Loss promises to address the issue of insulin resistance as it pertains to weight gain. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells in your body respond normally to insulin, and therefore can’t take glucose out of your blood as easily as they should, which puts pressure on the pancreas to make more insulin.
Those with insulin resistance will likely not experience any symptoms, but it can make it harder to lose weight. Go Lo ingredients include a blend of banaba leaf, rhodiola, inositol, gardenia, Salacia, apple, magnesium, and others.
The reviews on this supplement are mixed. You should also use caution as some of the ingredients, such as banaba leaf, can reduce blood sugar – so if you’re already taking medications for high blood sugar, taking this supplement with those medications may result in too much of a reduction.
Chitosan is another supplement that may help you lose weight. Chitosan is a type of sugar that comes from shells of lobster, shrimp, and crabs. Chitosan is thought to block the body’s absorption of fat and cholesterol. Studies show that chitosan may have an effect on weight loss, although not a significant amount.
The side effects are fairly moderate – nausea, gas, and upset stomach seem to be the most common complaints. If you take Warfarin (Coumadin), you should not take Chitosan as the interaction can cause increased bleeding and bruising.
Some supplements promise to improve overall health, which normally includes increased focus, energy, and enhanced immunity.
One approach that supplement manufacturers take is to create a plan addressing your overall wellness. Dr. Stephen Gundry’s Holobiotics program is one such system that incorporates supplements and reading material designed to promote a balance of good and bad microbes. Unfortunately, the reviews for this system seem to be rather poor, both in terms of efficacy and customer service experience.
Bioshield is a supplement that also claims to promote overall wellness – including a healthy immune system and increased energy. The ingredients list includes curcumin, cherry, cocoa, and green tea. Curcumin does have a demonstrated ability to lower inflammation levels. Green tea has been known to lower cholesterol levels and improve circulation.
However, at nearly 50 dollars (plus shipping costs) per bottle, this supplement seems to be fairly pricey for the ingredients.
Gut Health and Immunity
Over the last decade, researchers have found much evidence to support their assertion that gut health is tied to overall immunity. In light of these discoveries, many supplement manufacturers have released products designed to improve your gut (intestinal) health.
Power Life Nutrition
Power life nutrition offers probiotic and protein powders that claim to make you more muscular, and overall, more healthy. The basis behind these claims comes from strictly vegan nutrition. The reviews for this company are generally good, but at 69.95 per container it’s a bit pricey.
Unify Health Labs
Unify Health Labs provide supplements that fall into the healthy gut category, claiming to prevent gluten sensitivities, diarrhea, and nausea, as well as boost the immune system. Like some of the other supplements discussed here, this one is also a little pricey, and there seems to be a lack of actual customer reviews on the website, although there are a number of customer testimonials.
Another product by Dr. Stephen Gundry is Total Restore, which is geared for those individuals who have what is known as “leaky gut syndrome.” Leaky gut syndrome can be viewed as a diagnosis of an issue that is still not widely understood, but which results in increased intestinal permeability.
In a nutshell, substances from the food we digest should be filtered out of the bloodstream in the intestines, but for those with leaky gut syndrome these substances can enter the bloodstream and cause a number of issues such as bloating, food sensitivities, diarrhea, and constipation.
One of the main concerns with this supplement is that leaky gut syndrome is still a largely unknown condition – in fact, some believe it may be a symptom of another, underlying, condition – which makes supplementation difficult.
Morning Complete is a probiotic drink taken in the morning, on an empty stomach, that promotes healthy bacteria in your intestines. While there is quite a bit of data that proves probiotics are, indeed, essential to a healthy intestinal tract, there are other reports that suggest probiotics need to be tailored to an individual’s particular needs, as not everyone responds the same to a broad dose of probiotics. This particular supplement does, however, boast extremely good ratings and a high level of customer satisfaction.
Pain relief is another area that has people turning to supplements, in many cases to avoid the many side effects that can result from taking these kinds of medications.
Golden Revive Plus
Golden Revive Plus is a supplement blend that treats chronic inflammation with bromelain, quercetin, magnesium, and piperine. Although quercetin and bromelain show promise as natural anti-inflammatories, more research is needed to prove their efficacy. Quercetin also has a number of potential interactions with medication, particularly medications that are broken down and changed by the liver.
Willow bark comes from the bark of any number of willow trees. It has been used for some time as a natural anti-inflammatory. It contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. Although willow bark does show some promise in treating back pain, it has not been effective in treating any type of arthritis. Because willow bark is similar in chemical makeup to aspirin, anyone with an aspirin allergy should refrain from using willow bark.
A Word on Evidence
When you are researching a vitamin or supplement, one thing that you definitely want to keep in mind is what kind of evidence you’re looking at. There are basically two different kinds of evidence you’re going to see: empirical (fact-based) evidence or anecdotal (word of mouth) evidence. Empirical evidence is what can be proved by rigorous laboratory study.
The researchers will look at a specific vitamin or supplement and try to determine if and how it produces a particular result. You can often see these studies and the results of the studies with a simple Google search.
Anecdotal evidence is what we see when we read a review of a supplement, or someone tells us about a supplement, or we read an article about a supplement. While anecdotal evidence is not without merit, one should keep this in mind – especially if a supplement company is making wild claims about the benefits of a supplement.
Which Vitamins and Supplements Do You Need if You Follow a Healthy Diet?
As mentioned before, there are certain health conditions that specifically require supplementation. Because of this it is important to check in with your doctor so that they can monitor the levels of these vitamins. The dosing may need to be changed as levels improve.
That said, if we were to follow the guidance of a food pyramid, eating all of the recommended foods in the recommended amounts for our specific ages, and barring any vitamin deficiency, we would likely not need vitamin supplementation. This presupposes that we have access to all of the nutrients we need, year-round, which may not be the case. This also presupposes that we eat perfectly, which is probably a highly unrealistic goal for many.
Another thing to take into account is our many lifestyle choices. If you are taking a supplement for energy, have you thought about how much sleep you are getting nightly? If you are constantly sleep deprived, you are going to be experiencing a host of symptoms that may include low levels of energy and mood changes, as well as impaired focus and performance. In this case, consistently getting a good night’s sleep would negate the need to supplement for extra energy.
In the end, there is no magic pill for optimal health, it takes a well balanced diet, healthy lifestyle choices, and targeted supplementation to address specific deficiencies.
*This material is provided for your information only and is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Reviewopedia. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your healthcare provider.