By: Dr. Al Sears, MD
It’s hard to believe in 2014. But it’s still going on.
Every so often I’ll read or hear a doctor or professional organization say there’s no evidence that a vitamin supplement does anything for anybody.
Eliseo Guallar and his colleagues at The American College of Physicians wrote an entire paper entitled, “Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.”(1)
And this kind of thing keeps getting repeated.
Just listen to Dr. Benjamin Caballero, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: “The evidence for supplementing with any vitamin … is just not there.”(2)
Or Jaakko Mursu, Ph.D. and colleagues on the Iowa Women’s Health Study: “Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements.”(3)
And Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic: “The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage.”(4)
But the evidence that we do need to supplement our nutrient-poor diet continues to mount, until we could fill entire libraries with the evidence. So people see and hear this stuff and they become confused.
They come to me from all over the world as if there’s this great controversy about whether they should take a supplement or not.
I want to tell you what I always tell them. In my mind, there is no controversy. It is virtually impossible to get optimal nutrients for optimum health and aging from our diet.
And you’ll really be chronically deficient if you follow the RDI guidelines. Those were only designed to prevent illness, not to get you to your best health. If you follow them, you’ll be deprived.
What’s more, as the chart shows, most people don’t even get the RDI for nutrients… So people are not even meeting what would keep them nutritionally deprived even if they met the guidelines!
Even young people, who have a higher metabolism and can eat more food than the average 50 or 70-year-old, with all the extra food they eat, only 1% of them are getting the nutrients they need.(5)
Part of the reason is that our produce doesn’t have enough minerals. They’re grown on mineral and nutrient-depleted soils. Many of them have been genetically altered to grow faster which lessens their nutrients…
For every generation for the past century the nutrient content has gone down. And it’s going down faster in this century with the speed at which crops are being modified.
Did you know you would have to eat 26 of today’s apples to equal just one apple from 1914?(6)
Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture admits that vitamin and mineral levels have fallen by as much as 81 percent over the last 30 years.(7)
So it’s a brave new world. I’m not saying I have every solution to every nutritional problem, but I can tell you there is a problem there. And you need to be informed by someone so you can do something about it. Doctors burying their heads in the sand and saying there is no evidence of a problem is ignorance.
So what to do? It’s simple: Give your body back what you’ve been deprived of so you can get your nutrients, minerals and antioxidants for healthy aging and optimal health. Here’s how:
1) Increase your mineral intake. Magnesium, selenium, and the other essential minerals are mostly missing from the Western diet. Take chromium for example. Our food animals don’t eat their native diet of chromium-rich grass anymore, and there’s less chromium in produce.
It’s a crisis because chromium is a co-factor for insulin. Insulin uses chromium to transport sugar out of your blood and into your cells where it’s burned as energy. Without chromium, it leads to weight gain and diabetes. Even mild insulin dysfunction will make you have low energy levels, produce more fat, make you crave sweet foods, and gain pounds.(8)
But chromium can reverse this. One study took commercial pigs and fed them chromium and measured significant fat reduction. They changed nothing else about the pigs … all they did was give them chromium and they got lean.(9) They had an increase in muscle, as well.
An Austrian study gave one group of people a calorie-restricted diet and another group chromium for 26 weeks. The people in the chromium group lost just as much weight as the people eating almost nothing. The people taking chromium had increased lean muscle mass.(10)
You can get lots of chromium from grass-fed beef, ripe organic tomatoes and a source that may surprise you: red wine. Grilled steak, tomatoes and a glass of wine sounds like a tasty summer meal to me.
But you’ll still have to supplement. Because you need 400 mcg a day for optimal health, and even that delicious meal will only give you around 50 mcg.
2) Power and protect with CoQ10. Another supplement I recommend is one that I don’t know how you could get enough of without going through a lot of trouble, unless you take a supplement.
You’d have to hunt wild animals and eat their internal organs fresh … but I wouldn’t even recommend that today. Yet that’s where CoQ10 concentrates. You need it because it powers every single cell in your body. It’s so important that revealing how CoQ10 works won Peter Mitchell the Nobel Prize in 1978.
The best source of CoQ10 is the closest thing you’re going to get to a wild animal – grass-fed meat. I was lucky to grow up eating grass-fed beef, and I still do today. Grass-fed beef contains more CoQ10 than any other meat on the planet.
You can take a CoQ10 supplement, but many of the powder and tablet forms are worthless. They won’t get absorbed into your cells.
That’s why I recommend the ubiquinol form of CoQ10. It’s already in the form your body uses. Take 50 mg of ubiquinol each day (to increase its effectiveness, combine CoQ10 with PQQ).
What I do is take a good multivitamin, multi-mineral, and a multi-antioxidant. I figure I’m getting a lot of the bases covered to get me back to optimal nutrient status. In fact we’ve gone to great length to formulate our own supplements according to what I believe is deficient in our environment.
To Your Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Guallar E, Stranges S, Mulrow C, Appel L, Miller E. “Enough is enough: Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.” Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(12):850-1.
2. Caballero B. “Should healthy people take a multivitamin?’ Clev Clin J Med. 2010;77(10):656-7.
3. Mursu J, Robien K, Harnack L, Park K, Jacobs D, “Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women.” Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(18):1625-1633.
4. Klein E, et. al. “Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT).” JAMA. 2011;306(14):1549-56.
5. Shay C, et. al. “Status of Cardiovascular Health in US Adolescents: Prevalence Estimates From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) 2005–2010.” Circulation. 2013; 127: 1369-1376.
6. Lindlahr, 1914: USDA 1963 and 1997
7. “Vegetables without Vitamins,” Life Extension Magazine March 2001
8. Tsai, Chung-Jyi, Leitzmann, Michael F., Willett, Walter C., et al, “Macronutrients and Insulin Resistance in Cholesterol Gallstone Disease,” Am. J. of Gastroenterology, 2008;103:2932-2939
9. Lindemann, M. D., Wood, C. M., Harper, A. F., et al, “Dietary chromium picolinate additions improve gain: feed and carcass characteristics in growing-finishing pigs,” J. Anim. Sci. 1995; 73:457-465
10. Bahadori, B., Wallner, S., Schneider, H., et al, “Effect of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate…” Acta. Med. Austriaca 1997; 24(5):185-7