Supplements are all the craze these days, curing everything from cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, to heart disease. However, some supplements can actually make you sicker, and even if they don’t hurt you, they may just produce expensive urine. For example, an estimated 70% of women over 50 are taking calcium supplements to strengthen their bones. However, calcium supplements are now linked to an increased risk for heart attacks. Another example: Omega-3 or fish oil supplements are being gobbled up to promote heart and brain benefits, but most research shows that they may not give you those protective effects. Multivitamins are touted to prevent heart disease and cancer, yet the evidence does not support this. Vitamin E supplements were supposed to fight age-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease, but as a supplement it doesn’t deliver. Bottom line-get these nutrients from food! Supplements were never meant to be food substitutes the way they’re marketed. Supplements were meant to be just that, a supplement to your food that you eat. Why food? Because substances in foods act synergistically with one another. Take broccoli for instance. It’s loaded with a phytochemical called isothiocyanates, but you would never get the same benefit from a supplement, because without the same enzyme found in whole broccoli sprouts your body absorbs about 8 times times less of the tumor-fighting nutrient. Look at vitamin E supplements, which I’ve been railing against for years. Vitamin E supplements usually contain alpha-tocopherol or d-l-alpha-tocopherol, only one chemical compound. Natural vitamin E in foods contain four types of tocopherol and four tocotrienol compounds. And the latest research suggests that many nutrients, plant chemicals and even dietary join forces and work to bring more health benefits than they do alone (synergistic). For instance, studies show that tomatoes help block cancer development, but combine tomatoes and broccoli together and you reduce cancer much more! I like beans. It turns out that the good, healthy bacteria in your gut use dietary fiber and resistant starch (found in dried beans) to produce a fatty acid that protects colon cells from cancer. I think it has really helped with my own gut issues.

Bottom line (you’ve heard this before, but it is true): Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, along with good sources of proteins (organic and grass-fed if you can afford it. It will pay huge dividends.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.