Supplements: Harmful or Helpful



Are your supplements in the right form?

Surprisingly some very pricey supplements, marketed as high end, are formulated with cheap and potentially toxic forms of vitamins and minerals. I recently reviewed two expensive multi-level products containing inferior nutrient forms.

Take a look at your supplement labels.  Nutrients and herbs come in different forms, all with different effects, some not good. Depending on your needs, you may or may not, be benefitting from your supplement choice.

Take magnesium, a commonly deficient mineral. Correcting a deficiency can protect you against strokes and heart attacks, while relieving headaches and insomnia. Magnesium oxide is the cheapest and least useful form; it often leads to diarrhea, thus causing greater loss of minerals. Does your supplement contain this inferior form?

Vitamin E is another nutrient than can be therapeutic in one form, toxic in another. If you see dl alpha tocopherol, you are taking the synthetic form of E, one found to increase cancer risk in study participants.  The ideal form of vitamin E, which contains the full range of naturally occurring tocopherols, is anti-inflammatory, with cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits. One form may prolong your life; the other may shorten it. Puzzled by the media reports? Read this.

Feeling fatigued? Depressed? Forgetful? It may be a vitamin B12 deficiency, dubbed the silent epidemic. A supplement can help but 99% of multiples contain an inferior and potentially toxic form of vitamin B12: cyanocobalamin. Some of us lack the ability to adequately detoxify the cyanide molecule from this form of B12 and can wind up with health problems when using it. In 1997 a study published in the journal Blood, found cyanocobalamin causes cell death. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine argued for the discontinuation of cyanocobalamin, but it is still found in most multiples out there. Is it in yours?

Now check for folic acid, or vitamin B9. A common genetic mutation leaves many of us poorly able to convert folic acid to its active (natural) form: folate. Folate keeps us from feeling depressed and blocks some types of cancer. Everyone needs and can benefit from folate, but not everyone benefits from folic acid, and some can suffer problems. Larger doses of folic acid are linked with toxicity and colon cancer. Does your supplement contain the therapeutic form or potentially toxic form of this B vitamin?

Does your product contain iron? Or calcium? Both of these nutrients are associated with increased risk of heart disease and digestive problems. Calcium supplements, it turns out, don’t really even help our bones!  Other nutrients do however, and without increasing risk of new diseases.

And then there are potentially toxic fillers, colors, and other additives. Check your fine print.

I have seen well-chosen supplements help stop anxiety and panic attacks, reverse diabetes, ease menopause symptoms, stop pain, rebuild weak bones, improve depression, bust blood clots, and balance blood cholesterol levels.  The key is well-chosen. 

If you want to make sure you are spending your money wisely, and benefitting from your supplements, leave a comment or Email me for a supplement review.


Supplements: Harmful or Helpful — 13 Comments

    • It is true that 95% of vitamin supplements sold are synthetic. Many claim they are “natural” but this means nothing. Sometimes food-based nutrients are spiked with synthetic nutrients so contain both. Some health issues can be treated with these higher doses however, so not all synthetic nutrients are bad. Coal tar is NOT good. If you see thiamin hydrochloride (HCL) or thiamin mononitrate, these are from coal tar. USP isolates are also guaranteed synthetic, possibly coal tar derived. Inexpensive vitamin brands from the drug store are generally low quality and synthetic. If you don’t suffer yeast syndrome, consider Brewer’s yeast for a natural source of B’s. You might also look into Synergy, Mega Food, and Vitamin Code, which at least have a food base and might be all natural. It is very hard to know for sure if these have some synthetic nutrients added but most of the ingredients are natural and higher quality forms of nutrients are used even if synthetic. If you eat breads, pasta, breakfast cereal or sports bars, you are likely getting coal tar B vitamins, as this is what is used to enrich foods. Even if not 100% natural, taking methyl or hydroxy cobalamin B12 will likely help if you have low B12 signs. Consuming animal products should also get you there unless you have leaky gut. Just avoid cyano-cobalamin B12 supplements or food additives.

    • It should be selected for your needs, and need not be labeled “pre-natal.” I do not recommend anything with folic acid (should be folate!), nor cyano-cobalamin B12 (not the ideal form), nor a lot of calcium, which should be coming from foods. Supplemental iron is another nutrient that can cause trouble. Iron is best obtained by increasing lamb, beef and eggs (pastured) or use of a cell salt if food isn’t keeping iron stores adequate.

  1. I still refer to the supplement guide you advised for me awhile back. In general, I give the girls Nordic Naturals brand. Any other brands you did reputable for kids?
    Thank you

    • Cod liver oil has some benefits over fish oil. The cadillac of cod liver oil is Green Pastures; they also make a therapeutic butter oil, which is great for kids. Nordic Naturals and Carlson’s are also good, but more highly processed, and may or may not have all the vitamin A and D benefits of Green Pastures.

        • Check the labels. One of them contains inferior (potentially problematic) forms of B’s, as well as nutrients you should not be taking.

  2. My multivitamin has most of the forms you say to avoid. This is frustrating as it was expensive. I will be contacting you to figure out what I need. Also, my doctor says I should be taking calcium as I have osteopenia, but I have noticed it leads to constipation and stomach upset. Can I rebuild bone without taking calcium supplements?

    • Many supplement manufacturers take cost-cutting steps they hope you won’t notice; this can mean one or more nutrients in a product are in an inferior form. Because we associate calcium with strong bones, we are quick to reach for high calcium pills. Unfortunately not only is a calcium tablet an ineffective way to build bone, it may put you at increased risk of a stroke or heart attack. Because bone is living tissue, it can be strengthened, even in old age, with a multifaceted approach. Calcium is one small component, and best coming from your diet (not pills) in balance with other minerals. We also need optimum levels of vitamins D and K, magnesium, beneficial fats, trace minerals, plenty of alkalinizing vegetables, and weight bearing activity. The right cell salts can also help.

  3. i find very few supplements on the market provide the right forms of nutrients. I feel more energy when i get the right forms at the right levels!

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