It's been battered about in the news about whether supplements are worth the effort and money. As always, it depends on your personal situation. Some people are more prone to nutritional deficiencies, are under more stress and use up their nutrient supplies, or just want some "insurance" against illness and disease. Anyone who eats the modern American diet is eating many, many depleting foods. No matter how hard I try, I don't think I can eat a perfect diet. So, I think supplementation is fine as a compliment to a healthy diet, as long as you are informed and choosing your supplements wisely. But, no, I don't think it's wise to eat a crummy diet and think that if you take a vitamin you'll be healthy. Just sayin'! ;-)
Eating whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals should be priority #1. If you're also interested in taking them in supplement form, it makes sense that the best supplements are from natural, whole-food sources (vs. synthetic chemicals produced in a laboratory). No lab can come even close to what Mother Nature makes!
Note that the recommended dosages in whole-food based supplements are lower vs. synthetic supplement sources. It's like comparing something that's alive vs. something that's dead. It is only possible to create high-dosage, synthetic “vitamins” if you isolate one fraction of the vitamin complex. Relatively small amounts of whole-food natural vitamins, with all of their naturally-occurring synergistic components, are far more potent than high doses of synthetic imitation “vitamins.”
Differences in Supplement Quality:
I conducted a small observational (non-scientific) study of different supplement brands. At my local Kroger grocery store, the main supplement brands they sell are Sundown, Nature’s Bounty, and Nature Made. At The Vitamin Shoppe, they sell dozens of other brands such as NOW, Solgar, Source Naturals, Garden of Life, Bluebonnet, Nature’s Way, Twin Lab, Jarrow, Spectrum, Life Extension, and Nutrigold.
I compared labels on various iron supplement bottles. (You could do this with any supplement.) Here are the labels... Make a note of the differences.
Nature Made (Kroger & other grocery stores):
Wellesse liquid iron:
Solgar gentle iron:
New Chapter (organic):
Desiccated liver pills
(whole food source):
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