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Health and Wellness
Do We Really Need Supplements?
BSN, RN, FNP (ret) Wellness Consultant
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 • Posted April 26, 2012 12:35 PM

One of the most prevalent justifications for using supplements is that the soil is depleted and that you can't possibly get enough nutrients from eating food, therefore the use of supplements is necessary. Although it is true that commercial farming has depleted nutrients from soil, it is not true that commercially grown food is devoid of nutrients. Plants will simply not grow in soil that has no nutrient value.

Representatives selling mineral supplements use this rationale all the time. As with so many sales pitches or nutrition advice, there is a kernel of truth in what is being said. There is no way that one can get enough nutrients from consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD). However, it is possible to get enough nutrients by consuming a predominantly plant based diet.

Dr. John McDougall, MD from California who advocates a healthy, low fat vegetarian diet as a means for preventing and reversing degenerative disease, wrote that the sellers of vitamins and minerals tell people that the SAD is deficient in vitamins and minerals, and therefore we all need to take supplements. But, how many of us know someone who has a deficiency disease? Know anyone with pellagra (niacin deficiency)? How about scurvy (Vitamin C)? Or beriberi (Vitamin B1)? Probably not. And the reason is that most of the people in the U.S. are suffering from diseases of excess. Excess calories, cholesterol, salt, fat, etc. Know anyone with some of these excesses?

The government regularly publishes nutritional analyses of foods by taking from a variety of sources and running a battery of tests on those foods. What these analyses consistently show is that produce grown in this country is nutrient-rich and high in trace minerals, especially beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Americans are not nutrient deficient because the food produced here is deficient, but because we are not eating enough of the right types of it. Most of the calories consumed by the average person in this country consist of refined foods and animal products with 40% coming from refined sugar and grains.

Dr. Benjamin Caballero, a member of the Food and Nutrition board at the National Academy of Sciences, states that if you eat junk food every day, vitamins are the least of your problems. You cannot replace a healthy diet with isolated nutrients. It is not known what ingredient in a healthy diet is responsible for what condition. But, it is known that people who consume five to thirteen servings or more of fruits and vegetables everyday have less disease. Beta carotene, Vitamin E and antioxidant supplements have been tried and tested and they do not work. People are looking for the magic bullet. It does not exist.

Scientists know that there are dozens of mineral interactions in the body, so that if you add one mineral it can throw off the absorption of another mineral. It could either enhance it, or make it difficult to absorb the other mineral dependant on the amounts. For example, Vitamin A is more easily absorbed in the presence of Vitamin E. Iron is better utilized when combined with Vitamin A. Vitamin A status can be improved by combining it with zinc.

Vitamin D works with calcium and Vitamin K to improve bone building. Vitamin E can increase the absorption and utilization of Vitamin A and can protect against hyper-vitaminosis A. And, when used with vitamin C, it can reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Calcium is better absorbed when adequate amounts of Vitamin D are available. Lyseine also enhances the absorption of calcium and reduces excretion from the body. Essential fatty acids can also enhance absorption of calcium and reduce calcium loss.

Boron helps convert Vitamin D to its most usable form and increases the effect of magnesium and calcium on bone building. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, and assists in recycling Vitamin E in the body. Excess consumption of Vitamin C in its isolated form can result in copper stores becoming depleted. Are you getting the idea? Get your nutrients from whole foods.

So, if you are not consuming a plant-based diet, there is no amount of supplementation that will make up for what is missing in your diet. And if you are, then you don't need the supplements. Money spent on supplements is much better invested in high-quality food!

Disclaimer: Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published trade books. These articles have been written and published strictly for information purposes. Consult your health care provider for your specific medical needs. For any questions, comments or suggestions contact Maryella at or

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