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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why Are There So Many Supplements?

Why indeed, you may wonder, are there so very many health supplements? In addition to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, protein powders, and herbal extracts, every day it seems there's a new supplement being discovered and a new product being heavily advertised. Health supplement magazines are now as large as the Sears catalog! How and why is this possible? As a nutritionist I have given much thought to this question over the past decade. Here's my answer, arrived at after considerable thought.

The food we eat is composed of micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. In addition, food contains other substances, including enzymes, phytonutrients, and co-factors. On top of this there are various herbs that are not genereally used as foods per se, but which can provide health benefits. The reason there are so many supplements is that as scientists delve into the foods we eat, looking carefully with microscopes, electron microscopes, spectrometers, and chemical assays, they discover what those foods are composed of, and as we get closer to the atomic scale, the number of ingredients that they discover increases.

Will it ever end? Will we ever find a list of all the nutrients that exist? My answer — my best guess — is no. Because as we get below the atomic scale, the division down into the smaller particles of matter is not going to stop. It will be endless in scale, just as the large structure of the universe is endless in scale. (For more on this see the work of astronomer Tom Van Flandern, especially his book Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets -- 2nd Edition (1999) .) And we'll continue to discover substances inside substances forever. Sounds like a fun adventure doesn't it? Sure, but it certainly does make vitamin shopping time consuming. I'm the first to admit that. Nevertheless, dear Reader, it is worth the time and effort because studies indicate that those who take supplements live longer and healthier lives than those who don't.

4 comments:

Imelda said...

I am having second thoughts now. I guess i will take my supplements now that just expire in the bottle.

MIRA said...

I only take One A Day for women, makes life easier ;-).
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Belle said...

one or two supplement is ok, i think..
especially woman..for beauty,skin, n health.. :)

Michael Christian said...

In my next post I'm going to explain why eating a good and varied diet is NOT enough to keep you in good health. You absolutely NEED to take supplements, and I'll explain WHY.