You are cautious about your health and make sure to take a daily supplement. While it seems like you are doing your body good, what you don’t know might be harming you. While a high quality supplement with the best possible ingredients can be a key to optimal health, not all supplements are created equal. The wrong supplement has the potential to do more harm then good.
Wrapping Our Heads Around the Iowa Women’s Health Study
If you are reading this article you have probably heard of the infamous Iowa Women’s Health Study. The 2011 study set out to investigate the supplementation habits of more than 38,000 women 55 and older for close to 20 years. They were looking for trends, benefits and other information about women who took supplements regularly. What they found was unforeseen. They found that women taking a multivitamin each day had an increased risk of premature death. That’s right, an increased risk. What’s more is that the women who took multivitamins had better overall health habits than those that didn’t.
So, how is this possible? The researchers noted several potential causes for this shocking discovery. They pointed to other studies that showed how trace metals, unwanted compounds and potentially harmful chemicals can be found in some mass-market supplements. The study points to this as a plausible link between taking supplements and shorter lifespans. Is it possible that a poor-quality supplement can actually be killing us? The research says this just might be the case.
Poorly Balanced Supplements Can Cause Kidney Problems
Many studies have suggested that certain types of lower quality, poorly balanced vitamin supplements can actually lead to kidney dysfunction. In 2012 the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology published a study listing a number of herbs and supplements that have been shown to lead to potential kidney problems. While some of the underlying reasons are still under investigation, they hypothesize that low quality ingredients and trace amount of chemicals and metals are part of the problem. The study outlines that heavy metal contamination from supplements is a known cause of kidney problems. Researchers even stated that exposure to excessive cadmium (which has been found in some vitamins and supplements) can cause permanent kidney damage and may even weaken bones.
Digestion Impacted by Supplements
Many supplements are rich in minerals that can cause disruption to digestion, such as indigestion, constipation and stomach pain. A study published by the Harvard Medical School said that calcium, “may cause acid rebound: the stomach overcompensates for the high dose of calcium carbonate, which is alkaline, by churning out more acid.” Experts also say that calcium consumption can cause an increase in constipation. While this may seem like mild symptoms, ongoing use of a supplement that causes higher stomach acid, this can lead to more serious problems down the line.
Can Supplementation Cause Acne?
A study published in the Science of Translational Medicine made an interesting observation about the relationship of certain supplements and an increase in acne. What they found was that vitamin B-12 may play a major role in the symptoms of the skin condition acne. Researchers at the Los Angeles Health Science Center at UCLA found that vitamin B12 alters the activities of a certain type of skin bacteria associated with acne. This causes the production of compounds that are known to trigger symptoms of this annoying skin disorder.
The Outcome of Low Quality Supplements
Imagine this scenario — you want to take control of your health so you go to your local super store. You head straight for aisle 4, which is lined with colorful bottles of vitamins, minerals and supplements. You find the spot for the multi-vitamins and you start reading. What now? The problem is that when you shop for vitamins alongside shampoo and pet food do you really know what you are getting? Global powerhouse Consumer Reports partnered with the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group, to look into the safety of mass-produced supplements. What they found was that due to “inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers.” What countless studies have shown is that because there are little or no measures used to control the safety, quality and potency of supplements, there is a great risk of potential harm to consumers.
FDA Recommendations on Supplement Safety
According to the Food and Drug Administration there are several potential risks when taking supplements. They warn that some supplements contain active ingredients with potentially strong biological effects in our bodies. They outline the following five scenarios as the most problematic for our health:
- Combining supplements without consulting a health care provider
- Using supplements with prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Substituting supplements for prescription medicines
- Taking an excess of certain supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, or iron
- Taking supplements before, during, and after surgery
How Can I Avoid These Negative Outcomes?
The answer to this is quite simple — find a supplement that is high quality and where no measure of testing and ingredient control is skipped. There are supplements available with carefully sourced raw materials, ample product and ingredient testing, all made in pharmaceutical grade labs. This gives you peace of mind in the safety and quality of your supplement.
It is very important to pay attention to everything that goes into your body. While you think you are making a good choice in taking a daily supplement, the opposite could be true. With many potential dangers in lower quality supplements, it is key that you know what is in your supplement. When you know that you are taking a vitamin that will not cause any potential harm, you can rest assured you are on the way to peak health.