Tag Archives: calcium supplement

The Supplement Story

By Megan Kian

In our society, we are always searching for an easy way out. For example, we tend to focus on short-term diets instead of making long-term lifestyle changes. With the abundance of dietary supplements available in health food stores like GNC, you may think that you can take supplements in place of eating healthy food that will provide you with the nutrients you need. However, supplements were created to compensate for nutrients that you may not be getting from your diet, not to provide you with 100 percent of the nutrients you need.

Supplements are not the ideal way to get your nutrients because:

  • Your body extracts nutrients best from whole foods that you consume.
  • Taking various supplements can hinder the uptake and absorption of other nutrients that you get from the foods you eat (for example calcium and iron compete for absorption).
  • You run the risk of taking in toxic amounts of certain nutrients. The FDA does not regulate supplements; therefore, if you take various supplements you could end up taking in too much of certain nutrients.
  • Many vitamins you get from supplements are water soluble, which means that whatever excess you take in will come out. We call this expensive urine!

There are certain cases in which supplements can be helpful. For example, pregnant women have increased nutrient needs that may not be achievable through diet alone, so a prenatal vitamin is recommended. And some people have nutrient deficiencies (e.g. vitamin D) or aren’t taking in enough of a certain nutrient (e.g. calcium). If you think you need to take a supplement, speak to a doctor or a registered dietitian before you start taking any. And keep in mind the following:

  1. Understand your nutrient needs and ask yourself if you can get the nutrients you need from your diet.
  2. Make sure to read the label when picking out a supplement.
  3. Take the correct dosage.

What do you think of supplements?

Vitamin D Deficiency

On Monday I told you about why vitamin D has become such a hot topic over the past few years. One of the things I mentioned is that it is quite difficult to take in the amount of vitamin D that is now considered necessary for your health. This means that many people may be deficient in vitamin D, most of whom will not even know they are.

The main reason for deficiency is decreased exposure to the sun, the primary source of vitamin D (because sun leads to D synthesis in the body).  Other causes of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Dark skin — the darker the skin, the less able the skin is to produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
  • Older age (50+) — as people age their skin cannot make vitamin D as efficiently, plus they spend less time outdoors in the sun.
  • Fat malabsorption diseases — people with celiac disease, crohn’s disease, and liver disease have less fat in their gut, therefore it is harder for a fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin D to be absorbed.
  • Obesity — fat in the body holds onto vitamin D, making it less available to circulate in the body.

If any of the above causes is something you deal with, or if you have noticed notably weaker bones, you may want to get tested for vitamin D deficiency. It is becoming much more common for doctors to test for this deficiency, so don’t be surprised if your doctor suggests it even if you don’t think you are at risk.

If you are deficient, it is best to take a vitamin D supplement, because as I mentioned yesterday, it is difficult to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from food. When buying a supplement, look for vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, which is the more potent type of vitamin D. If you are deficient in vitamin D, you are likely deficient in calcium as well, since vitamin D helps calcium absorb. Therefore, you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D.