Dietary supplements other than vitamins include minerals like calcium and iron,
herbs and botanicals; probiotics; sports drinks; fish oils; and hormones such as estrogen
and testosterone. Although they are claimed to be useful for maintaining
or improving health, other than vitamins, almost all supplements have either
been proven to be of no value, proven to be harmful or need more study to
determine if they are of any value. Most dietary supplements have not been well
tested for safety, especially for use by pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants,
Many supplements contain active ingredients that can have powerful effects on the
human body. For example, excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and may damage
the liver and other organs. Some dietary supplements interact with certain prescription
and over-the-counter drugs in ways that might cause harm. For example,
St. John’s Wort can speed the breakdown of many drugs (including antidepressants
and birth control pills) and, thereby, reduce these drugs’ effectiveness; ginkgo taken
with ibuprofen may lead to spontaneous and/or excessive bleeding, and high doses
of garlic may enhance the effects and adverse effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet
drugs including aspirin, and clopidogrel (Plavix). Herbal supplements are
especially not recommended for those who may be immuno-compromised (such as
the elderly or those with HIV), those with kidney damage or liver disease, anyone
who may be undergoing surgery or other invasive procedures, pregnant or lactating
women, or children.
Fish oils, rich in omega-3 fats, are among the most widely taken supplements—
consumed by about 8% of U.S. adults in 2012. Recent high-quality studies suggest
modest benefits for preventing CVDs, but many previous studies did not find protection.
Recently, another supplement, cannabidiol or CBD, is being promoted as a miracle
cure for depression, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, chronic pain, and a variety
of other ailments. In 2018 it became the top-selling herbal dietary supplement in
health food stores and is found in a wide variety of products. The hype about benefits
is great, but there is little evidence that CBD is safe and effective. Many of the
unregulated products sold as CBD do not contain CBD. Others vary greatly in their
content and often contain other compounds, including THC, the active ingredient
Some Americans, both meat-eaters and vegetarians, do not consume enough iron.
This is most common among women with heavy menstrual bleeding. Vegetarians
and vegans who get their iron from plant foods need about twice as much dietary
iron each day as do meat-eaters because the heme iron (iron in blood) in animal
foods is more easily absorbed than the nonheme iron that comes from plant foods.
Vegetarians may be at a higher risk for developing iron deficiency for an additional
reason, the fiber in plant foods may bind to iron and make it less easily absorbed.
Among plant foods, dark green leafy vegetables have the highest iron content.
Dried fruits are also high in iron. Vitamin C and foods high in vitamin C increase
the availability and intestinal absorption of iron. Zinc deficiencies are seldom a
problem for vegetarians and can be avoided by including a wide variety of foods
in their diet, such as soy products, legumes, grains, cheese, and nuts. Iodine deficiency
can be a problem for vegans, but vegans can get iodine from iodized salt,
seaweeds, soybeans, sweet potatoes and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel