Maybe your diet is lacking in certain nutrients, or cold season is just around the corner and you feel the need to stock up on some vitamin C. Maybe you’re thinking long term, and want to stave off the possibility of cancer or heart disease. Or perhaps you’re just feeling a little sluggish, and suspect there’s a vital nutrient you’ve been overlooking.
Whatever the reason, supplementing your diet can be a great way to maintain and improve your health. Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal. At the end of the day, all vitamins and supplements are an attempt to duplicate what natural foods were already capable of doing. So some will succeed, and others may be completely useless. With that in mind, here’s a few supplements that may be less than they’re cracked up to be, as well as some of their superior counterparts.
Most of vitamin C supplements sold in the grocery store are going to be made of ascorbic acid. This is what’s known as a water soluble vitamin, meaning any excess amount that you ingest is going to be flushed out of your body through your urine. What makes vitamin C so troublesome is that unlike most vitamins, there will be times when you need large doses to help fuel your immune system when you’re sick. If you take large doses of ascorbic acid, you may suffer from diarrhea, nausea, and a host of other symptoms.
This is because vitamin C has an extremely short half life in your body. So even when you’re sick, you’re body can only utilize so much before it is all flushed out of your body (which it will in a very bad way). The best alternative to ascorbic acid, is fat-soluble vitamin C, also known as ascorbal palmitate. With this supplement, whatever your body doesn’t immediately use will be stored in your body fat and liver, rather than being quickly depleted through your urinary tract. This allows your body to use it on an as needed basis, rather than the massive but brief dosages you would receive from a water based vitamin.
For years, calcium has been considered one of the most important supplements especially for the elderly. However, recent studies have shown that calcium may not be very effective at preventing conditions like osteoporosis. Worst yet, it can increase the risk of prostate cancer, kidney stones, and can even harden your arteries. The reason for this, is that there is already plenty of calcium in our foods, some natural and some added. In most cases supplementing calcium is simply overkill.
So if you’re concerned about the health of your bones and joints, what should you take instead? Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D3. While D3 is responsible for depositing the calcium in your bones, K2 is responsible for keeping the calcium from being placed in the wrong tissue (like your arteries). They work in a synergistic way to keep your bones strong and dense. Speaking of vitamin D…
Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune function, and is typically attained through exposure to the sun. For this reason, most people are severely deficient during the winter months, when they need it most for combating colds and flu viruses. While supplementing vitamin D during those cloudy months is a great way to help your immune system, it would be best to avoid vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 is what your body naturally produces, and is much more accessible than D2 supplements. D2 doesn’t really bind very well with your body’s cells, and has a very short half life in your system. In addition, the shelf life of D2 is much lower than D3, so foods that add D2 may have only a very weak dose by the time it reaches your dinner plate. It’s very likely that D2 may be phased out in the future, because it usually costs the same as D3 without being nearly as potent.
Most commonly found in meats, eggs, and dairy, B12 is used in the production of blood, DNA replication, and brain health. Vegans and vegetarians are the most likely candidates for B12 deficiency, since there is no plant that is capable of producing the vitamin. While B12 supplements are better than nothing, they may not be very effective, with off the shelf pills probably being the least potent. Many vegans opt for the same treatment anemia patients must endure: a regular B12 injection from a doctor.
On the molecular level, B12 is the largest, and also the most complex nutrient. Your body has to engage in a lengthy multistage process to absorb the vitamin, and many things can go wrong along the way. For these reasons, B12 supplements just don’t compare to natural sources, and eating meat and eggs is still the most effective way to stave off a deficiency, which can be quite dangerous.
There are several different forms of chromium that are frequently used for fitness, weight loss, and treating diabetes. Among them are chromium niacinate, chromium chloride, and chromium picolinate. It works with insulin to help your body properly utilize its sugar supplies, and can help curb feelings of hunger. However, only one of the three forms of chromium have been proven to be effective in any capacity.
Over many trials and studies, chromium picolinate has been shown time and again to be one of the best supplements for regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. It has a far greater bioavailability than rival forms of chromium, so it is easily absorbed into the human body. The potency of niacin and chloride forms of chromium has never really been proven conclusively, and are usually found in the cheaper brands of multivitamins.
So in conclusion, finding the right supplements can be a tricky endeavor. There are plenty of supplement brands willing to cut corners, and use shill studies to promote their inferior products, so you have to carefully research everything that you put into your body. But in the end it’s worth it, for a healthy mind and a healthy body.