|How Do We Get Benefits of Supplements?|
Are All Nutritional Supplements Effective?
Unfortunately not. Nutritional supplements range widely in effectiveness. Nutrient content vary, and so do amounts. Some supplement tablets are barely digested and pass right through the body.
Some are made to food-grade instead of pharmaceutical grade standard. That’s like the difference between production of pies and penicillin.
For most people it’s difficult to know which one to pick. Price alone is no guarantee. There are many highly priced ones that are not as complete as much cheaper ones. Nor can we go by the advertising and promotional material, as every manufacturer claims to be the best.
What Can We Do Then?
Our best bet is to look to independent nutritional supplement reviews. One study that stands out in its comprehensiveness was carried out by Lyle MacWilliam, a biochemist and former health advisor to the Canadian Ministry of Health.
To “separate the wheat from the chaff”, he researched, analyzed and ranked the nutritional values of the popular vitamin-cum-mineral health supplements in the US and Canada. We can see the results in his book Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements available on Amazon.
In the 4th edition of this book, 1,612 broad-spectrum supplements are compared to an independent nutritional benchmark, developed from the individual recommendations of 12 recognized nutritional authorities.
See Best Multi Vitamin Products for the top 2% nutritional supplements that earned the highest 5 star quality rating, fully meeting the benchmark.
The guide also examines the remarkable protective powers of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and presents scientific evidence that support the use of nutritional supplements to achieve optimal health.
How Health Supplements were Included and Ranked
Only broad-spectrum nutritional supplements were included in the study. That means those containing a comprehensive mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, with dosages formulated for preventive maintenance.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) standards set by the US Food and Nutrition Board establishes, for each nutrient, an Upper Limit considered safe for adults. Products with three or more nutrients exceeding 150% of their respective Upper Limits were screened out of the review.
Compared to the DRI, the Comparative Guide standard includes more nutrients and antioxidants, based on decades of clinical research about their benefits. For instance, the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, that the body makes less of as it ages, is included. So is the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid that helps recycle other antioxidants like vitamins C and E.
Here are the 18 quality-selection criteria used to rate the supplements. It is also a useful list for knowing what the benefits of supplements are, and what to look for in high-quality health supplements.
- Completeness : whether the product contains all the nutrients identified as important in the benchmark.
- Potency : how much there is of each of the nutrients, compared to the benchmark amounts.
- Bioactivity of Vitamin E : checks if the vitamin E is the natural or synthetic form (which is only half as effective).
- Antioxidant Support : looks at those nutrients that help to prevent or repair cellular damage caused by oxidation, such as vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, coenzyme Q10, and selenium.
- Methylation Support : examines the nutrients such as vitamins B2, B6, and B12, and folic acid and trimethylglycine, needed for the body to make methyl donor molecules. These help reduce homocysteine levels in the blood, and so protect the arteries and nerves.
- Lipotropic Factors : looks at the nutrients like choline, lecithin, and inositol that help to remove toxins such as lead. The liver and brain are two primary targets of fat-soluble toxin accummulation.
- Ocular Health : good eyesight and prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration need sufficient levels of many nutrients, such as vitamins C, E, and A (including beta-carotene), and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Liver Health : looks at the nutrients such as vitamins C, B2 and B3, cysteine and n-acetyl-cysteine, and selenium, that enhance liver function and optimize levels of glutathione, which is needed by cells to fight off toxins.
- Metabolic Health : examines the nutrients such as vitamins B3, B6, B12, C and E, biotin, coenzyme Q10, chromium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, that help the body to handle its daily sugar load. This is important to keeping the body systems responsive to insulin, and restoring lost insulin sensitivity.
- Heart Health : checks the nutrients that help protect the heart and cardiovascular system. These nutrients include vitamin E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q10, calcium, magnesium, l-carnitine or acetyl-l-carnitine, procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), phenolic compounds, and lycopene.
- Bone Health : looks at nutrients that assist in bone remodelling, which is vital to warding off osteoporosis and other diseases that weaken the skeletal frame. These nutrients include vitamins D, K, C, B6 and B12, folic acid, boron, calcium, magnesium, silicon, and zinc.
- Glycation Control : examines the nutrients such as l-carnosine, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid, that help slow the progress of many degenerative diseases such as Parkinsons disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
- Inflammation Control : checks those nutrients needed for reducing cellular inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancers, and arthritis. These nutrients include the omega-3 oils, such as those found in fish oil (EPA and DHA or eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids), linolenic acid, gamma-tocopherol, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, the flavonoids, procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), and the phenolic compounds.
- Gamma Tocopherol : checks that the product uses the gamma form of vitamin E. Studies show that gamma tocopherol reduces chronic inflammation and protects against cancers of the colon and prostate. On the other hand, high doses of alpha tocopherol alone can reduce the level of gamma tocopherol in the body.
- Phenolic Compounds Profile : looks for a specific group of phenolic compounds (polyphenolic acids and their derivatives) that are exceptionally powerful defenders against free radicals. Phenols from olives, green tea, and curcumin are also known to decrease risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and lower impact of inflammation.
- Bioflavonoid Profile : examines the bioflavonoids, which work throughout the body to attack free radicals and support many functions. These vital nutrients include the citrus flavonoids, soy isoflavones, quercetin, quercitrin, hesperidin, rutin, bilberry, different berry extracts, and PCOs like resveratrol, grape seed and pine bark extracts.
- Potential Toxicities : checks those nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron, that can build up in the body to toxic levels with long-term intake. Vitamin A is available more safely as beta-carotene.
- Mineral Forms : examines the molecules that the minerals are bound to. The right forms help them cross into the bloodstream. Amino acid chelates, and organic acid complexes like citrates and gluconates, mimic the natural chelates that form during digestion. Chelated minerals also do not block other minerals from being absorbed, unlike the cheaper mineral forms such as carbonates, sulphates, and chlorides.
For a fuller examination of the criteria, or of the benefits of supplements, refer to the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements (4th Edition).
Of the 1,612 nutritional supplements measured against these criteria, 33 achieved the maximum of 5 stars. These are listed on the next page.
« Back to Health Supplements Nutritional Guide Home page