Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On diet supplements and vitamins

My mother got a free subscription to a nutrition magazine that mostly wrote about various supplements you could take for better health.  But she cancelled it in disgust after they had a special article about one of their doctors.

He took calcium with vitamin D (a standard calcium formulation) and fish oil (which you can get at SAMS or Costco).  That was it.

Rather than being inspired to take what he took, in the more expensive brands, she realized that this guy might design and sell expensive custom supplements, but he wasn't using any of them.  What he was using you could buy cheaply at any big box store -- and they were both things that she was already taking.

The truth is that most people do not get enough sunlight on their skin.  The good to that is that they do not wrinkle or get skin cancers.  The bad is that they are short of vitamin D.  Do they need expensive prescribed supplements (the new wave of value added services that many doctors are offering)?  No.

Other than that, calcium and fish oil (if  you have high triglycerides or cholesterol problems) and you are good to go.  On the fish oil, the Wall Street Journal has run some interesting articles, since trying to turn fish oil into money has proven very hard.  Expensive formulations and other approaches have failed to provide any better result than inexpensive bulk sources.  The same is pretty much true of calcium, though a little vitamin C, a little vitamin D and your body makes better use of it.

There are many things that in small amounts, or in specific limited areas, are very valuable.  But in more esoteric or more expensive approaches they offer little additional benefit or value, or none at all, just like vitamin and other nutritional supplements.

It is a useful lesson.

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