Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100”
Your best supplements
Supplements are the “gateway drug” of the SCAM industry. They skirt the boundaries of legitimacy, alluding to incredible claims that are never explicitly made in the adverts – relying instead on extraordinary testimonials and sciencey-sounding bullshit in alternative magazines like WDDTY. Most of the WDDTY editorial panel appear to profit from selling supplements, and this is also a profitable sideline for homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks.
Unless you live on a farm, grow all your own organic vegetables and have access to free-range meat, it’s almost certain you have vitamin deficiencies even on the best of diets. Ideally, get yourself tested by a knowledgeable nutritionist to determine which nutrients you need or aren’t getting from your food, and customize your supplement programme accordingly.
This is a blatant sales pitch. There is no good evidence that organic produce is significantly more nutritious than equivalent intensively farmed produce, there is a robust consensus that most people with a healthy balanced diet do not need supplements, and SCAM propagandists are in total denial regarding the rather obvious fact that routine supplementation is medication by any definition, and many of the largest supplement manufacturers are also pharmaceutical companies.
Whatever your political slant, you’ll find an ideologically consonant source telling you that supplements are a waste of money. Daily Mirror, Guardian, Telegraph, Huffington Post, even the Daily Mail. The claim that the human body has evolved such that even the highly nutritious and enriched modern diet is routinely deficient in large numbers of essential nutrients is implausible, and the promotion of this idea is evidence of the propaganda machine that underpins the immensely profitable supplement industry.
And if your diet is deficient in essential nutrients, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to fix your diet?
The very last person you should consult is a “nutritionist”. Has the public learned nothing from Gillian McKeithW, the noted celebrity copromnancer and holder, like Ben GoldacreW’s cat, of a worthless fake “doctorate” form a worthless fake “health college”? Nutritionists are unregulated, may be untrained or (worse) trained in batshit crazy doctrines with no basis in reality, and their main source of income may well be selling the very supplements they recommend.
21 Choose a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement
Choose a supplement from a reputable brand. If you can’t find one to your liking, take the nutrients individually.
What constitutes a reputable brand? NBTY, formerly Nature’s Bounty, is a $3bn corporate conglomerate; it owns Holland & Barrett and is owned in turn by the Carlyle GroupW. Centrum is owned by Pfizer. Seven Seas is owned by Merck.
22 Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
About a third of the general population is vitamin D-deficient. The vitamin offers natural protection against most cancers and heart disease, and can also boost immunity and vascular function. People who regularly supplement with vitamin D increase their longevity by 7 per cent. The body naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight—just 5 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day between 10am and 3pm, without sunscreen, is about enough to do the job.20 Otherwise, supplement with 600–1,000 IU vitamin D/day (400–1,000 IU/ day for those aged 18 and under).
Reference 20: Am J Clin Nutr, 2004; 80: 1678S–88S Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Holick MF.
Vitamin D is the new vitamin C. The same inflated claims, the same mega dosage recommendations from the same industry lobby groups (e.g. the “Vitamin D council”).
The evidence that adequate vitamin D is important, is pretty solid. The evidence that most people are deficient, not so much. For example, it has been found that the apparent deficiency of vitamin D in African-Americans is an artifact of an evolutionary adaptation; the amount of bioavailable vitamin D is much higher than blood tests suggested.
It is likely that modest supplementation would benefit older people, especially postmenopausal women, though there are potential disbenefits and some of the claims are shown to be false.
More research is needed. The supplement industry instead spends more money on marketing.
23 Make antioxidants the mainstay of your supplement programme
To minimize damage from free radicals, the toxic byproducts of your body’s metabolism, take adequate daily levels of vitamin A (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene or 10,000 IU as retinol), 1–3 g of vitamin E (tocotrienols, up to 600 IU), zinc (10–50 mg), selenium (200 mcg) and vitamin C (1–3 g). And take a good B-complex supplement containing at least 50 mg of thiamine and riboflavin, and 50 mcg of B12.
It’s astonishing that the human race has evolved a metabolism that s incapable of surviving without industrially refined supplements, especially since the availability of these supplements only goes back two or three generations.
Before necking bottles of beta-CaroteneW, it’s as well to be aware that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage, and cardiovascular and total mortality in people who smoke cigarettes or have a history of high-level exposure to asbestos (source).
Once again, a normal healthy balanced diet should contain all the nutrients you need unless you are assessed as deficient by a competent medical professional (i.e. not a nutritionist).
24 Don’t forget magnesium (200–400 g/day) and chromium (100 mcg/day)
According to a large-scale study by the renowned British lab testing service Biolab (see #15), people become deficient in both minerals as they age, and both are necessary for heart health. Magnesium is also essential for bone health and more absorbable than calcium supplements.
Biolab is mainly “renowned” as a lab which offers dodgy diagnostics alongside proper ones and refers people to half the editorial board of WDDTY for treatment of the non-existent conditions they thus diagnose.
NHS Choices seems to think that magnesium and chromium are both widely present in the diet, with no supplementation necessary. The difference may be explained by the fact that NHS Choices is not selling diagnostic tests to allow its referred physicians to profit by selling you the supplement. But that would be conspiracist thinking, and we should probably leave that to WDDTY.
25 Take good-guy bacteria
Invest in a quality probiotic, which includes lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and non-disease causing strains of Escherichia coli and streptococci.
I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Probiotics have been tested on a long list of diseases and conditions, and it appears that a scientific consensus is approaching for the use of certain probiotics for lactose intolerance and rotavirus diarrhea. Claims related to these benefits may be the first to be accepted in many jurisdictions. Before other claims are approved, manufacturers will have to invest considerable time and money to obtain data to show the efficacy and safety of their probiotic product. The data and documentation required to obtain a label health claim will be different in different jurisdictions because of differences in legislation. These discrepancies will add to the challenges faced by probiotics producers and consumers. – J. Nutr. June 2008 vol. 138 no. 6 1250S-1254S The Evidence to Support Health Claims for Probiotics
That’s probably why the Mayo Clinic says that “You don’t necessarily need probiotics — a type of “good” bacteria — to be healthy”.
The probiotic industry is also huge. Major manufacturers are Danone (a multi-billion-Euro French multinational) and the Japanese Yakult corporation. Yakult submitted a request for marketing authorisation, the result of which was:
The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and maintenance of the upper respiratory tract defence against pathogens by maintaining immune defences.
Still, at least Yakult is actually paying for some research, albeit that it has precisely the same sources of bias as any other industry funded research, and still doesn’t support the claims they want to make.