The Truth About Vitamins

Every so often, a new study about vitamins dominates the headlines announcing that vitamins don’t work, they are a waste of money, or they aren’t what you think they are. I’m always amazed at how they can spin things to make such sensational headlines!

After looking at thousands of research studies over my years in practice, I know that it isn’t until you delve into the specifics of the study: how it was done, what they actually looked at, and who funded it, that the real headline emerges.

A few years ago, a scathing review conducted by Consumer Reports concluded that vitamins were a total waste of money. They looked at individual supplements for vitamins, such as vitamin E and other vitamins, in isolation and concluded that they weren’t effective.

As a Functional Medicine practitioner who treats the body as a whole, recognizing that every system, process and function is interrelated and connected to others, it’s no surprise to me that a vitamin taken in isolation, without all the necessary enzymes and co-factors that support its metabolism, would have little impact.

Earlier this year, another study concluded that many of the supplements you purchase at stores like Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreen do not contain what they claim to. This isn’t the first of these studies. A similar study on omega 3 fish oils in California a few years ago revealed wild disparities between the concentration and purity of the products and the stated label claims. Several other studies have revealed similar results.

Given we are often looking at a vitamin in isolation or evaluating vitamin products that do not contain the ingredients or doses they claim to, it’s no surprise that the media proclaims that vitamins don’t work, aren’t necessary or are a waste of money: in those cases, it’s likely true!

At Women to Women, however, over the past three decades, we have seen first-hand that high-quality supplementation can make an incredible difference in the health and healing of our patients. That’s because we formulate our vitamins to be of the highest quality and purity, designed for optimal absorption and laboratory-tested to ensure efficacy and potency: our patients see and feel the difference.

Vitamins can help support your health, but only if you are getting high-quality nutritional support that is proven to impact wellness; otherwise, you’re just “wasting your money,” as the headlines claim. Let’s look at what you need to know about buying and taking vitamins so you can get the benefits that high-quality supplements can provide.

Why Isn’t Good Food Enough?

When I ask my patients about their diets, most confess that they eat out more than they should, they choose the convenience of packaged or processed foods a bit too often, and they don’t always get the highest quality ingredients such as organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meats because they aren’t readily available or affordable.

Given the way food is raised and grown today, it’s no great surprise that they are often experiencing symptoms resulting from the deficiencies or ‘gaps’ that can arise from incomplete nutrition. For the majority of my patients, once we look at their diets, they immediately understand that their bodies need more support and see a high-quality multi-vitamin can help to “bridge the gap.”

Occasionally, I have a few conscientious patients who are making all those good choices, at least most of the time, and they are sometimes surprised that it is still not enough. The truth is that given today’s farming practices, where foods are picked before they are ripe and before they have developed their full nutritional profile in order to make it to markets, often a long distance away, before spoiling, even organic produce often lacks sufficient nutrients. One study showed that to get the same level of vitamin A from eating two peaches back in the 1950s, today you would have to eat 53! I’m pretty sure none of us are doing that!

That’s why virtually all of my patients benefit from a high-quality multivitamin supplement, whether they are experiencing hormonal imbalance or other symptoms yet, or not. Those who are not experiencing life-disrupting symptoms still recognize that the chronic lifestyle-related diseases that are today’s greatest causes of death and illness all have roots in diet and nutrition and that supplementation is a small price to pay for prevention.

Stress, Diet and Vitamins

Even if we do our best to eat well and cook from scratch, many of us have not done so religiously over the years. Let’s face it: we didn’t know or talk as much about food when we were younger and we ate anything we wanted and generally got away with it! Convenience foods came into being in the 60’s and 70’s and we shifted away from home cooked meals every night into convenient fast food and processed options.

Who can’t remember their first TV dinner and how exciting it was to have that tray and eat in front of the TV? While we could get away with it for a while, for many of us, those choices caught up to us and resulted in dieting of some sort, at some point in our lives. More than half of American women are on a diet at any given time and often these diets rob our bodies of critical nutrients.

In addition, stress plays a huge role in our physical health and wellness, our absorption of nutrients, and our weight gains and losses. The more stress we have, the harder it will be to maintain a healthy weight and the more likely we are to make poor food choices, which will then impact our weight. It’s a vicious cycle!

Regardless of it’s impact on weight, however, stress, whether it is environmental stress such as pollution and radiation, or the every day craziness of rush hour traffic or busy kids’ schedules and work deadlines, also impacts our bodies’ abilities to absorb and process nutrients, making it even more important that we receive high-quality support to stay balanced.

Taking vitamins in isolation has not been proven to be effective so we recommend a high-quality, pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin that will provide all the key nutrients as well as their supporting co-factors required to ensure maximum absorption. In addition, we recommend every patient take an essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement in order to provide the omega 3 support our bodies require.

EFAs are essential, meaning our bodies cannot make them, so we must ingest them. Today’s diet is heavy in omega 6 vegetable oils that are the foundations of processed foods and restaurant cooking, but our bodies desire a ratio of 1:1 omega 3 to omega 6. To compensate for our heavy omega 6 diets, we must ingest omega 3s in order to balance out that ratio and our nutritional health. Many patients say just this one supplement makes a huge difference in how they feel, both mentally and physically.

How Do You Get The Right Vitamin?

As we’ve discussed, if the vitamins you take cannot be absorbed, they aren’t going to help! Cheap generic vitamins are rarely fully absorbed, and some have even been shown to pass through the stool whole or just partially decomposed. If they are broken down fully and completely in the body, they are often lacking the appropriate doses (Recommended Daily Allowances or RDA’s are the bare minimum required to prevent diseases such as scurvy and rickets, not the optimal amounts a healthy body needs) or they lack the co-factors needed for the nutrients to be processed and utilized effectively. As scientists put it, bioavailability is key: if they aren’t bioavailable, they won’t be effective and you will be wasting your money.

So what should you look for when choosing a nutritional supplement? There are six main points that we think are essential in making your choice.

  • Complete is crucial. The latest nutritional science suggests that women need at least 30 vitamins and minerals, along with a rich essential fatty acid formula.
  • Bioavailability matters. There are six patented chelated formulas we recommend be included, and the vitamin must meet USP standards for solubility.
  • Natural is the only way to go. Supplements must be free from artificial preservatives, dyes, allergens and other contaminants. The fatty acid formula must be certified free of mercury and lead.
  • Reliability is essential. While there are no manufacturing standards for nutritional supplements issued by the FDA, there are several sets of standards with international recognition. The manufacturer must meet at least one of these recognized standards.
  • Laboratory testing to back up claims. Every production batch of a nutritional supplement must be tested to ensure it contains exactly what the label claims.
  • You must feel results. You are the best judge. If a supplement doesn’t make you feel better within 30 days, it’s time to try another. Though symptoms may not disappear in that time frame, you should feel a marked difference.

Working with our patients who were struggling with hormonal balance, adrenal fatigue and thyroid concerns, weight management issues, and concerns about bone density and aging well, we knew we had to provide an affordable option that our patients could trust to be free of impurities and bioavailable. We wanted to ensure that we maintained control over both the quality of the ingredients and the manufacturing process in order to deliver the highest possible quality of supplementation available, one that would yield maximum results for our patients.

Our proprietary products, Multi-Essentials and EPA/DHA Support, have all of the above qualities, and provide the foundation women (and men!) need. We have done our homework, including visiting the manufacturer, talking with their scientists and reviewing processes and controls. We’ve used these products successfully with patients in our clinic (and online) for decades and we take the products ourselves.

It isn’t enough to live longer – we must also live well. With the help of a high-quality nutritional supplement, we know living well is possible. High-quality supplements like the ones we offer at Women to Women are such a small investment in your health. You’d readily invest in a gym membership to get your body in shape if your health required it; nutritional supplementation is an investment that will pay off in a big way health-wise, both now and as you age. Thankfully, it’s easy and doesn’t take any time out of your busy day!

We should all feel great: full of energy and free of limitation. Our patients tell us our products help them to do that: Don’t you deserve that as well?

To learn more about our products….click here.