Vitamins and Supplement Part Deux

This is a continuation of a prior blog regarding the complex topic of finding the optimal vitamins and supplements. The term for a person taking too many pharmaceuticals is polypharmacy. This applies to supplements as often as it does for prescription medications.

I see people adding one vitamin after another in the vain attempt to find the right combination. At the risk of being sexist, it is more often the wife and mother trying to maintain the health of her loved ones that is pushing the supplements. The dad is just happy to have a warm meal and a half hour to watch the national news. The kid has no idea what is being handed to them.

For the consumer or the practitioner, it is a daunting challenge to try and identify those supplements of high quality…or sometimes even those that actually have the active substance in the capsule! Lucky for all of us, we have a number of sources to rely on.

A good one is Consumer Labs. They charge $2 per month for a full review and it’s easily worth what it costs to get a medium coffee at Dunkin Donuts

They cover all of the commonly used supplements and many of the more obscure options. For each, they have information on: What It Is; What It Does; Quality Concerns; What to Consider When Buying; What to Consider When Using; Concerns and Cautions; Full list of Ingredients by Product; and more. 

Based on their overall evaluation, they will give a black and white answer of whether it is Approved or Not Approved. They have information on relative pricing so a person can compare approved options.

As the one negative I’ve found thus far with Consumer Labs, the evaluators tend to follow some of the narrow mainstream ideas when it comes to laboratory tests and some other principles. In the section on my old friend magnesium, it starts by saying:

“Magnesium is an essential mineral which can easily be obtained through the diet and only a small percentage of people in the U.S. have a magnesium deficiency requiring supplementation.”

Based on years of research and my use of magnesium supplementation for patients, I think what they meant to say was: “Magnesium deficiency is very common in the adult U.S. population and supplementation is often necessary based on the RBC magnesium level because the standard magnesium blood tests are unreliable and misleading.”

The Natural Standard database is another good option and well organized, ranking a variety of alternative options based on the level of evidence, but would be pricey for the layperson. I used Natural Standard as a reference for my book and it was an eye opener.

Overall, it is best to be an informed consumer working to find those supplements of the highest quality with the most potential benefit.

Andrew Lenhardt, MD

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