Popular questions about supplements

Q: Is taking nutritional supplements necessary?
A: Well, the answer is yes. Never have we being exposed to so much much pollution before. Life is certainly more hectic and stressful today compared to 20 or 30 years ago. The quality of food is not the same as before because of environmental pollution. It’s now a scientific fact that we cannot hope to get all the nutrients our body needs through meals alone. Nutritional supplementation is even more vital for those with poor eating habits. Diets laden with caffeine, fat, cholestrol, sugar, and sodium deplete the body’s reserves of nutrients. Drinking and smoking interfere with nutrient absorption. Other nutrients robbers are antibiotics, drugs, and laxatives.

Q: Why is it that we cannot get all the nutrients the body needs from our meals?
A: The nutrient content of foods fluctuate widely, depending on a number of factors. How the food is prepared will affect the nutritional value of food. We also have to take into consideration the quality of the food. For example, fruits and vegetables grown on the soil that are depleted of selenium, zinc, magnesium, calcium and other minerals will not contain a rich supply of nutrients. Artificial fertilisers used to increase crop yields will affect the quality of fruits and vegetables. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, addictives, preservatives, ripening agents and waxes sprayed on fruits and vegetables are toxic chemicals that rob the food of it’s nutrients.

Q: Is the nutrient content of fruits what we expect it to be?
A: Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients from the moment they are picked. Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables – particularly the imported ones – have actually been picked, then stored, then shipped, then stored again possibly for weeks or months. Then we may cook them, or at least cut them. All these actions cause nutrients loss. The vitamin C content of guavas for example may fall drastically after only one or two months. Green vegetables suffer even more – they lose most of their vitamin C after only a few days of being stored at room temperature. Everyone knows that orange juice is high in vitamin C. But few realise that an orange can lose as much as 30% of its vitamins C soon after it is squeezed.

Q: Is nutritional supplementation necessary if I take home-cooked food?
A: It is still necessary for all the reasons mentioned above. The way you prepare and cook your food determines to a large extent how much is your need for supplementation. If you are highly-stressed; for example you are holding a high-stress job, then your need for supplementationis even more acute. It is a documented fact that a body under stress, depletes its store of vitamins and minerals more rapidly.

Q: When is the best time to take vitamin supplements.
A: Vitamin supplements are best taken at mealtime, along with your food. This is to increase absorption. It is also important to know that the body can absorb and use only so much of a vitamin or mineral at one time. For better utilisation and to prevent wastage of vitamins, try to spread your dosage over the course of the day.

Q: How will I know that the vitamin supplements are working?
A: People taking supplements for general good health and disease prevention usually feel better after taking them for a period of time. They get fewer cold attacks, have more energy, and enjoy a great sense of well being. When you are taking vitamin supplements for a specific condition, you will know they are working when your condition improves. If you have high blood pressure, you might take extra calcium, magnesium and garlic plus of course a modified diet. Then if your blood pressure improves, you will know that the nutrients are working. It is important to realise that vitamin supplements do not work overnight. If you are nervous and irritable today and take a B-complex vitamin tonight, do not expect to feel calm and serene tomorrow. You must give vitamins time to work. In general, don’t expect to feel the beneficial effects until at least three to four weeks.

Q: Can vitamin supplements cause harm?
A: It is a scientific fact that only a few vitamins and minerals have any known toxicity level. Even then, the amounts needed to reach toxic levels are astronomically enormous. So there is no risk of any harmful effects.

Q: Will the body grow dependant on large amounts of vitamins and minerals after a period of time?
A: There is no convincing evidence on this. It its, however, common sense not to stop anything ‘cold turkey’  (abruptly or immediately) after taking it for a prolonged period of time. This is true for both drugs and vitamins. If your body is having an optimal amount of a particular nutrient, it naturally will have to readjust to any change. Therefore if you want to cut back on the intake, it is logical to do so gradually. For example many people increase their vitamin C intake during the cold and flu season. If you have been taking 3000mg of VITAMIN C during during this period, you may cut down to 2000mg for two weeks, then 1000mg for the next 2 weeks, then to 500mg and so on.

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Q: What vitamins are known as ‘antioxidants’?
A: Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants. It has been scientifically proven that these vitamins may help neutralise free-radical activity in the body and thus assist in the prevention of degenerative diseases like premature aging, cataracts, heart-disease and cancer. Antioxidants are also known as free-radical scavangers. (See ACE PROGRAM)

Q: What are free-radicals?
A: Free radicals are atoms or a group of atoms lacking an unpaired electron. They are present in the body and constantly ‘bump’ into healthy cells and severely damage them in the process. Free radicals are formed by exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals, over-exposure to the sun’s rays or through the action of various metabolic processes such as the use of stored fat molecules for energy. If free-radicals are left unchecked,they can cause degenerative diseases like premature aging, cataracts, heart disease and cancer.

Q: Do vitamins work individually?
A: Research has shown that vitamins work synergistically – that means they work better as a group. So it is good practice to combine your vitamins. For example, if you are taking antioxidants, you should be taking vitamins A, C and E together. If you are not sure which vitamins combine well, always ask your nutritionist or your doctor.

Q: How long does vitamins remain in your body?
A: Water -soluble vitamins stay in the body for a short period of time – say two to four days. The B vitamins and C vitamins belong in this group. Utilisation of water soluble vitamins begins the minute they are absorbed through your digestive system. Thus these vitamins must be replenished regualrly. Oil-soluble (or fat-soluble) vitamins stay longer in the body. Vitamins A, D, E and K belong to this group. Although these vitamins are usually stored in fat (liid) tissue, some may be also be stored in the organs, especially the liver. Therefore it is not practical to take fat-soluble vitamins in very large doses.

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