Are You Wasting Your Money on Supplements?

Dr. Janet Zand
January 6, 2019


Women tend to live longer than men, so our money — and our health — has to last longer. Money isn’t stretching quite as far as it used to and nobody likes to take handfuls of pills without results. The New Year is a good time to re-evaluate your supplements.

Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are either a wise investment or a waste of money. What you know about supplements will help you make a wise choice and actually improve your results and help you save money.

Many people ask me if it’s necessary to take supplements if they eat well. The evidence says they should. Research shows the value of both a good diet and additional nutrients to get and keep us healthy. Even if you’re eating nutrient-dense foods at every meal, it’s just about impossible to get enough of everything you need to stay healthy if you are living in the tempo and environment of the average American life.

But which ones should you buy? The least expensive vitamins at your local big-box store? Or should you spend money on more expensive formulas? A friend of mine had a dad who may have had the answer. He used to say that “A cheap tool is an expensive tool.” He knew that buying cheap only meant that you had to buy more. The adage works for supplements too.

Supplements are only valuable if you can absorb them, and good-quality supplements — those your body can easily utilize — are more expensive. But like any other health insurance policy, they’re generally well worth it. When you’re financially strapped, you need insurance — including supplements — even more than before.

Looking at cost vs. value

You need to be able to afford your supplements, and they should be a good value. What I mean by this is that they need to work. Many companies use cheap materials that look good on labels but don’t break down in your body. No matter what they cost, they’re not a good value. Supplements need to do more than look good. They have to contain the nutrients your body needs in a form that your body can use.

Take calcium, for example. Some forms are poorly absorbed, contributing to arthritis and heart disease. Calcium carbonate, for example, is generally less well absorbed than calcium citrate. Every vitamin and mineral comes in forms that are better absorbed than others.

Bring down the cost

Take a multi. If you’re taking individual vitamins and minerals rather than a multivitamin/mineral formula, you’re paying too much. You can save money by finding a formula that has all the nutrients your body needs in the necessary amounts. Although this may take some searching, it will save you a bundle over the years. You may want to try a multi like Healthy Resolve. Or you can take the ingredients list for Healthy Resolve to a natural food store and find a similar formula. Make sure the form of ingredients is the same, because Healthy Resolve’s nutrients contain those that are best quality and most easily absorbed.

In my practice I test patients daily for various nutrient deficiencies. Since there’s no way to really know exactly which nutrients you are deficient in without extensive testing, a high-quality multivitamin/mineral is a very serviceable tool to enhance the nutrition you’re getting from your diet and fill in some gaps which may exist.

If you eat fish two to three times weekly, you may not need an omega-3 supplement. But if you’re not able to consume that much fish, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting sufficient omega-3s. This is especially true if you’re suffering from any sort of inflammation, such as arthritis or any memory or cognition issues. Omega-3s are commonly found in our brains and if we’re deficient, we are more susceptible to compromised memory and other inflammatory processes.

As Omega 3s are extracted from fish – typically the smaller fish sources are your better option, as they have had a shorter time to gather mercury in their little systems.

When you purchase an omega-3 supplement, it’s important to go with a reputable company that tests for mercury in their products. Two such companies are Nordic Naturals and Carlsons.

A good probiotic is essential for most people – at least on and off throughout the year. I recommend 100 billion units daily for healing gut damage, infections, and imbalances, and 30 billion units daily for maintenance. Look for a probiotic that has a complex of strains and switch it up. Many of my patients find three different probiotics they like and alternate amongst the three – finish one, use the next, and then the next. And then go back to number one, etc.

Vitamin D is a nutrient worth testing – at least for a base line. I have checked thousands of patients’ Vitamin D levels and I’m always surprised at how many are deficient. Over 50,000 chemical reactions in the body require the presence of vitamin D – metabolism, bone growth, mood etc. I prefer a range of 50-90 ng/ml. If your blood levels are below 50ng/ml you may want to take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 until you get into the 50-90 ng/ml range.

Get the right balance. The balance of all nutrients is important, but perhaps the amount of calcium and magnesium you take is most important. The majority of calcium/magnesium supplements contain twice as much calcium as magnesium. We tend to be magnesium deficient, not lacking in calcium.

In fact, many women lack magnesium. We need magnesium for energy, to relax our muscles, and for a healthy heart. Find a multi that contains equal amounts of calcium and magnesium. Then if you need more of either, you can get it in your diet or by adding it to your basic formula.

Take what you need, not just everything that sounds good. Add extra nutrients to your multi when you need them and take them as long as necessary. If you have arthritis or fibromyalgia, an anti-inflammatory formula makes sense. But if your tendonitis cleared up last year, stop taking it and see if it’s still necessary.

If you’re computer-savvy or have lots of time for research, you can possibly find supplements of good quality that cost less, especially if you buy them when they’re on sale. If you don’t have the time or interest for this, Advanced Bionutritionals products or one sold by another company with similar prioritites in regard to quality is your best choice.

Bottom Line

• Don’t stop taking supplements, they’re part of your health insurance.

• Take the supplements you need as long as you need them.

• Consolidate separate nutrients into a formula when possible.

• Buy high-quality supplements for best absorption and results.

• Look for sales or buy in larger quantities.

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