Now I’m not a dietician and I’m not going to pretend I have all this fabulous knowledge about food and its multiple benefits. However, I did take Nutrition for Health and Wellness, KIN. 2501/3, at the University of Winnipeg with the wonderful, educated, registered dietician Mrs. Rennie Benedict, which I feel leaves me qualified to give my opinion – Rennie’s notes are really great and informative and if anyone wants to look over them let me know.
Recently, a fellow blogger and classmate was curious to know my opinion about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Now this person is taking supplements because her mother, which I totally get because our mothers only want us to be healthy, suggested it to her. But unfortunately taking supplements when we don’t need them can actual harm us and prevent our body from absorbing other vitamins and minerals, which are also called nutrients, that are important to staying healthy. Rennie, and the rest of the science community, refer to the ability of our body to absorb a nutrient through diet as bioavailability. In her class notes, Rennie says Bioavailability depends on several factors: our physiological need for the nutrient when it’s consumed, vitamin-mineral interactions, interactions between some plant compounds and minerals, like a compound found in spinach and rhubarb called oxalic acid renders the calcium these plants contain unable to be absorbed, and last but not least mineral-mineral interactions. Now mineral-mineral interactions refer to the interaction between the nutrients we get from eating and the nutrients we get from supplementing.
Several minerals are constantly competing with each other to absorb into the body. Rennie says that when our bodies have too much of one it can steamroll another, which limits our body’s ability to absorb that mineral. She also says this usually happens when people self-prescribe large quantities of individual minerals. And that is one of the problems; because supplements do not need to be prescribed by a doctor people often take them thinking vitamins and minerals are good for me so it can only be awesome for my body if I take more of them. But here are some questions to think about when considering taking supplements:
1. Does my diet give me all the nutrients I need to be healthy?
2. Do I have any food allergies to wheat, milk, protein, or fruit?
3. Have I been diagnosed with a disease, deficiencies, or malabsorption syndromes?
4. Am I planning to become pregnant, am I pregnant, or breastfeeding?
5. Am I over 50?
6. Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?
7. Am I vegetarian or vegan?
If you’ve answered no to these questions chances are you don’t need to supplement your diet because the food you eat is enough to cover all your body’s vitamin and mineral needs. So watch out when considering taking a supplement. If you feel you need to supplement because your diet is poor think about taking a multi-vitamin. Multi-vitamins are constructed in a harmonious balance of nutrients so that none compete for a place in the body. If you’re still not convinced go check out NIH Office of Dietary Supplements for more info and here's another list from Rennie about the hazards of supplements:
1. Taken in megadoses supplements can be harmful.
2. More is not always better. Extra amounts either serve no purpose and just end up in your pee or are harmful, so why waste all those good nutrients?
3. An excess of fat-soluble vitamins, like A and D, and many minerals, like iron, zinc, copper, and selenium, are stored in body tissue and can reach toxic levels.
4. An excess of one nutrient can affect another creating a nutrient deficiency, and they you’ll really need to take supplements.