A recent article highlighting the bags on bags of daily vitamins, minerals or supplement pills that Khloe Kardashian pops and posed the question: is it possible to overdo or overdose on supplements? Poor Khloe, maybe she needs all of these pills because her limited finances make it hard to buy real, fresh, local food! Overall, I believe that the author of this Kardashian case study article did a very nice job of making some good points. I totally agree with the author's message that maintaining a balanced diet will typically cover your nutrient bases adequately along with the concept that no matter how hard you try, certain nutrients, vitamins, or minerals are just hard to get from a balanced diet. In fact, I made those exact points in my recent reaction piece about the article comparing supplements to fast food. But then the fit hit the shan...
The article lost me in 3 areas:
- They listed Vitamin D, Calcium and probiotics as the supplements most people should take. Unless you are severely deficient in Vitamin D, Calcium or healthy gut bacteria then routinely enjoying some sunshine, dark leafy greens, full fat pastured yogurt/other dairy, bone broth, naturally fermented pickles (sans vinegar), pastured eggs (including yolks) or sardines will be more than enough to cover your needs in those areas. Throw in some consistent resistance training as well and lookout! Seeking these nutrients in their real food form will bring them to you with greater intensity and value than any pill ever can and help you avoid the dangers of imbalance between Vitamin D3, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin K2. They would have been better off recommending that the supplements we actually need are trace minerals like Zinc or Silica since they are very tricky to get through real food.
- There is no discussion of the fact that there are different forms of the same nutrients or micronutrients. This is important because the body absorbs or prefers certain forms of the same nutrient over others. For example, Calcium can be found in several forms including 'orotate', 'carbonate' or 'citrate' - typically Calcium Citrate is more bioavailable. Guess what...the best place to get the form of Calcium that our body prefers is from real food sources - who would have thought?
- Finally, I have a bone to pick with the following statement from the article: "A plant-based diet with a variety of foods from different sources goes a long way toward reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health issues." To me, a "plant-based diet" is different than a balanced diet of real foods. I'm all for responsibly consuming healthy amounts of all kinds of fruits and veggies, but if in fact this statement is insinuating that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and other health issues then this is a dangerous statement. There is growing evidence that long-term vegetarians require more medical treatment, report lower quality of life, and have higher rates of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders. Be sure to let your vegetarian friends know they may want to have a grass-fed burger here and there.
The supplement slope can be a very complex and slippery one - just ask Khloe Kardashian. Trying to simplify the topic while ignoring important details is not serving the best public need. That is exactly how you end up with a pile of pill bags that require labeling to avoid confusion. The best way to avoid slipping out of control down this slope - like Khloe appears to have done is to get a majority of your nutrients from real, fresh, local foods.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Founder of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness, recovery and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Burkert, N., Muckenhuber, J., Grobschadl, F., Rasky, E., & Freidl, W. (2014). Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study. PLOS ONE, 9(2). Retrieved April 9, 2015, from http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0088278&representation=PDF
Miller, K. (2015, April 9). Can You OD On Vitamin Pills? Retrieved April 9, 2015.