Annelie Smith - Dietician

Supplements


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Supplements for Women - PDF
Supplement suggestions for Men - PDF

Frequently asked questions

Is it beneficial to take very high doses of vitamin C?
Time release is not always the answer as it generally means that the tablet just takes longer to dissolve. That means that it still passes from the stomach and the nutrient may not be absorbed at the right part of the intestine. Nutrients are absorbed at a specific place in the gut which means that once it has passed that site and not available it will be excreted unabsorbed.

Are slow release vitamin tablets better than others?
For most nutrients the body has a limit to how much can be absorbed at a time. For instance, studies have shown that the body can absorb a maximum of 250-400mg vitamin C at a time. For this reason there is no point taking mega-dosages of nutrients as it will not be absorbed and just pass through the gut unabsorbed.

How do I know if my supplement will be absorbed effectively?
Tablets are made by adding material to bind the ingredients and compressing it together. The materials used and the compression as well as the coating around the tablet, is important. The tablet needs to fall apart in the stomach to be properly absorbed. Some tablets are very tightly compressed and do not fall apart in the gut. Others have a coating that does not break up and the bio-availability is affected. A good experiment is to put your tablet in white vinegar and see if it dissolves within 30 minutes or so.

How do I know if the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the tablet?
When choosing a supplement find out if the company makes their supplements to adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) or better still use pharmaceutical standards. This will give you peace of mind that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the tablet when you buy it.

What is the difference between Omega 3, 6 and 9?
One of the biggest areas of confusion in the sales market is that of the Essential oils: Omega 3, 6 and 9.
Omega 3 has been shown to have many benefits such as reducing the risk for heart disease, inflammation and improve cell membrane function. These benefits are available mainly from fish oil omega 3 with the chemical names docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA).

The 18 carbon a-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant version of omega 3 has not been shown to have the same cardiovascular benefits as DHA or EPA. Currently, there are many products on the market which claim to contain health-promoting "omega 3", but contain only ALA, not EPA or DHA. These products contain mainly plant oils and must be converted by the body to create DHA, and are therefore less effective. A systematic review of studies prior to 2005 showed that ALA does not confer the cardiovascular health benefits of EPA and DHA.

Be aware of supplements that supply omega 6 and 9, as they compete for absorption in the body with omega 3. What is more, is that the omega 6 has an opposite effect on inflammation than that of omega 3, which means it is pro-inflammatory. We strive to have a lower ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in the diet. Omega 6 is easily obtained in the diet from various plant sources like plant oils, nuts and seeds, while Omega 3 fish oils are much harder obtained in a usual diet. Adding omega 6 and 9 to a tablet makes the raw material cheaper and therefore can be sold at a cheaper rate than pure omega 3 supplements.

Are there any dangers in taking fish oil supplements?
The source and purity of fish oil for supplements is critical. Ocean fish are exposed to contaminants which can land up in the oil. Some fish are farmed closer to the shore lines which makes the oil more likely to contain contaminants than those fished in deeper water. Manufacturers need to take care to only use the purest fish oil in supplements. Omega 3 is an unstable oil and can easily oxidize (become rancid) which makes it harmful to the body. When taking capsules it is sometimes hard to tell if the oil has become rancid versus eating something like nuts where you can taste that it has become rancid. Consumers should do their homework before swallowing supplements to make sure that they are taking those farmed from deep water fish, made to pharmaceutical standards and are free from any contaminants.

What should I look out for in herbal supplements?
It is worth checking out the source of raw materials used in tablets. This is especially important for herbal supplements which are whole plants that need to be processed in a certain way to ensure the active ingredients that have the desired effect on the body systems are available. The plants used may carry chemical contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Best plant sources may be from certified organic farms and the tablets should be made with careful researched methods to preserve active ingredients and good manufacturing practices or pharmaceutical standards. For instance, garlic contains an active ingredient called allicin which has anti-fungal properties. When tested by independent laboratories (See www.consumerlab.com) many tablets contained none of this active ingredient.