“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The quote from Hippocrates summarizes the position of Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness, on supplements, which includes the use of vitamins, minerals, herbs/botanicals, powders, shakes, bars, and sports performance supplementation.
Before looking any closer at the legitimate health benefits to supplementation, it’s important to remember that a supplement is something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen a whole.
“In all likelihood, a supplement is not going to provide any additional benefit, enhancement or protective effect if there is not a deficiency present,” Trentine says.
Smart Business spoke with Trentine about nutritional supplements, when they make sense in a diet and what better options exist for optimal nutrition.
While nutritional supplements seem to be popular, what might be a better option to maintaining a nutritionally adequate diet?
U.S. consumers spend more than $20 billion annually on supplements, which in most cases is a waste of money. Marketing hype, unrealistic expectations, poorly applied or incomplete science and consumers’ thirst for the next magic pill fuels this multi-billion dollar industry. There are plenty of snake oil salesmen pedaling the next high profit margin, life-changing supplement.
Personally, I would rather see consumers pump the $20 billion spent on supplements each year into foods from small farms. Small family farms are the backbone of a community, a nation and of society. A landscape of family farms is settled, balanced and generally sustainable. Including foods from these sources provides the greatest opportunity for nutrient-dense food and for optimal health.
How can consumers be sure they are getting all the nutrients they need without supplements?
We must remember that any and every vital element for our health and performance is or was once present in our food supply. In theory, we should be able to obtain any and every nutrient we need for optimal heath from the food we eat. However, this is nearly impossible, as current food processing has nutritionally depleted our food supply and negatively impacted farming practices.
In 1936, some astute scientists were blowing the whistle that nutrients and trace minerals necessary for healthy plants were not added back into the soil by commercial fertilizers. Consider, for example, the nutritional profile of apples. Within an 80-year time period, the amount of calcium in apples has dropped 48 percent; phosphorous has been reduced by 84 percent; iron is down 96 percent; and the amount of magnesium present is down 82 percent. The significant declines in mineral levels and vitamins are occurring in all of our fresh foods including fruits, vegetables, meats and grains.
Compounding the problem, in today’s society, we start with a nutrient-depleted food supply that is processed to remove the enzymes and allow for a longer shelf life. Once it arrives in a consumer’s home, the food is cooked on a stove or in a microwave, which further inactivates many of the nutrients and food factors.
What are a few steps that should be taken prior to deciding on supplementation?
We should always keep in mind the golden rule when it comes to the optimization of our nutrition supply: How it is in nature is how it should be. The first step any concerned consumer should take to fortify their diet is to consider their food supply. For example, fresh produce and meats from small organic farms or local farmers markets will be far more nutrient dense than frozen products in a grocer’s frozen food section.
The next step is to take these organically grown foods and prepare them in ways that will provide the most nutrient density. Keeping in mind the rule about how it is in nature, when we begin to isolate certain food parts we really can’t project what the final outcome will be. Modern science still does not trump Mother Nature. When foods are eaten in their organic, unprocessed form, or in close concentrate form, we’ll receive benefits from its balanced nutrient profiles and associated enzymes for proper absorption. We simply cannot dump in massive amounts of food parts and believe that we can derive optimal benefit as this could lead to a greater imbalance in our system.
The final step if you believe that you might require the addition of a specific nutrient that has gone deficient in our food supply is to use reliable lab and testing procedures before dumping random supplements in your body. Simply adding supplements without testing more often than not will throw a person’s system off further. Your nutritionist or doctor might look at blood work or even hair tissue mineral analysis before recommending a prescription and dose of supplements.
In all cases the body is dynamic and your specific needs can vary based on quality and choice of foods, current metabolic/hormonal state and even the time of year. So regular testing is recommended when a person is considering supplements to bolster their diet.
Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit www.overloadfitness.com.
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