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Making Sense of Dietary Supplements: Are You Taking the Right Ones?

“Studies show little benefit in supplements.” “Vitamin B6 and B12 supplements appear to cause cancer in men.” “Supplements that may fight cancer.” “Taking heavy doses of B vitamins may increase lung cancer.” “Vitamin and mineral supplements for cancer prevention.” “Top 11 supplements for heart health.”

These are just a few of the headlines you can find on the internet right now. They are among hundreds of contradictory articles regarding dietary supplements. To say that nutrition experts are divided on supplement use is the understatement of the day. Many experts will tell you that you can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy diet. Possibly, but what they neglect to address is that most Americans are not following a healthy diet. Moreover this assumption does not take individual genetics into account, a factor which is known to greatly influence dietary requirements, and necessitate the use of supplements for some people.

The supplement industry is rapidly growing and is projected to increase to $36 billion this year. Unfortunately, since dietary supplements are not regulated as drugs by the FDA, they do not have to undergo the research and strict testing that drugs go through. This means that supplements do not require government approval or quality control and the contents and quality of supplements vary widely. One product might contain high quality omega 3 fish oil, while another product might contain low quality fish oil with possible contaminants or perhaps even rancid oil. The quantity of the ingredients might not be what is on the label, and the contents might not match the label either. There are some independent labs that test supplements, and there are some seals on supplements that indicate some sort of quality control, but they aren’t on that many supplements and not every supplement is tested (see for more information). It is thus crucially important to choose high quality dietary supplements. But how do you know which ones these are?

The safest way to purchase dietary supplements is to buy products from a professional line, sold through health care professionals. These products are much higher in quality and consistency, and undergo rigorous quality control testing. They also contain higher quality ingredients that are more potent and better absorbed such as the Meriva form of Curcumin (the active anti-inflammatory ingredient found in Turmeric). If you are looking for herbal supplements, a higher quality formula will be more likely to contain the correct species and therapeutic dose.

Most people think of nutrition as “eat your fruits and vegetables” and “avoid gluten” or “eat more protein”, and while nutrition does encompass those things, at its heart, nutrition is biochemistry. Every vitamin and mineral you eat has to be processed by your body, and the detailed metabolic pathways that carry out those functions have been identified. In turn each of the enzymes that work in those metabolic pathways are controlled by genes. So you can easily see how your genetics can influence your nutrient requirements. One person who responds well to a drug will be different from another person who has a serious reaction. Likewise, one person will not need the same amount of vitamin B6 as another person.

Nutrigenetics gives us a unique window into how much of certain nutrients your body needs and allows us to make your dietary supplement recommendations much more precise. You might need more vitamin D or folate, or you might be fine with the level of nutrients in a multivitamin and/or a healthy diet. By examining your unique genetic makeup and metabolism, we can learn what vitamins you need to focus on to optimize your overall health and well-being.

If you are interested in learning more about how your genes influence your health and your dietary supplement requirements, please contact us today. Nutrigenetics Specialists offers a variety of packages to help you eat right for you genes and determine which supplements you should be taking. We also offer our clients access to a wide variety of the highest quality professional lines of dietary supplements.

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