Supplements: Take them or leave them?
by: Dr. Vinay Hosmane
I have been asked this question many times and personally I have pondered this as well as it relates to my own health. My thoughts have changed many times over the years. Early on I felt why to take supplements, just eat a well-balanced diet.
But, then while away in Grenada for the first two years of medical school, I felt sluggish; the main change in my diet was a decrease in green leafy vegetables due to the fact the ones on the island didn’t agree with my GI tract. Hence, I actually started taking Centrum Silver Multivitamin (MVI) at the suggestion of my physician Father. I felt back to normal after a few weeks taking the VMI and I continued it for 1.5 years. Upon returning back to the States and completing the final two years of medical school in New Jersey, I stopped the multivitamin and went back to a lot of green leafy vegetables which I was able to tolerate. The reason for my intolerance to green leafy vegetables was likely due to the water used to wash them or the lack of washing.
As an internal medicine resident, I soon forgot my personal experience and resorted back to the view that people were wasting their money on supplements. All vitamins and nutrients are available in food so we should just eat properly. Subsequently, as I became interested in Cardiology, I learned about an Italian study that showed that Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplementation decreased the occurrence of Ventricular Tachycardia (a life-threatening and often fatal heart rhythm). Now, this study was conducted in Italy in patients that presumably exemplified the Mediterranean Diet. So, I thought, despite having fish in their diet they were still benefiting from extra supplementation.
Over the past few years, more data has surfaced and more advanced testing has been developed to show the levels of various vitamins and nutrients and building blocks.
I have been reading and hearing quite of bit about the following supplements:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Decrease the incidence of ventricular tachycardia in post-MI patients
- Alleviate dry eyes
- Decrease joint inflammation
- Decrease recurrence of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm that causes strokes)
- Decrease vascular inflammation and thus atherosclerosis and heart attacks and strokes
- Decrease blood pressure (Learn More)
***Please talk to my staff regarding their preferred brand of burpless fish oil that has high concentration of Omega-3 FA (DHA and EPA)
Low vitamin D may be an independent risk for heart attacks and strokes. Data from dozens of studies over the past 30 years is now so robust that a 2014 comprehensive review concludes that vitamin D deficiency meets established scientific standards as a “causal” risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading killer of American men and women, often from heart attacks and strokes.
A 2015 study of more than 200 overweight middle-aged women who were low in vitamin D found that those who dropped pounds through diet and exercise, while also taking vitamin D supplements, had greater improvement in their levels of inflammatory biomarkers than that seen in women who only lost weight.
Many Americans are low in vitamin D, which plays a role in protecting against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several forms of cancer.
Has a role in prevention and treatment of the following:
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD). Recent studies show that CoQ10 supplements can significantly increase HDL-C and ApoA1 levels, even in people taking statins, and may help reduce risk for CVD. CoQ10 supplementation also lowers levels of inflammatory biomarkers shown to be risk factors for CVD, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. Finally, low CoQ10 levels have been associated with greater tissue damage to the heart during a heart attack and the brain during stroke.
- Statin-related muscle symptoms. Although statin therapy can significantly reduce heart attack and stroke risk, up to 25 percent of patients quit treatments within six months due to side effects, such as muscle aches and weakness. In a 2014 randomized clinical study published in Medical Science Monitor ,75 percent of statin users with muscle symptoms reported reduced pain after taking CoQ10 twice a day for 30 days, versus zero improvements in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that combining statin therapy with CoQ10 supplements could lead to higher compliance with treatment.
- Heart failure (HF). CoQ10 was hailed as “the first new drug to improve heart failure mortality in over and decade” after a multi-center randomized study of 420 patients found that taking it reduced deaths in patients with severe HF by half, compared to a control group. The researchers tracked the patients for two years. The study was presented at the Heart Failure 2013 congress in Lisbon and later published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology Heart Failure
- High blood pressure. In an analysis of 12 clinical studies, researchers reported that CoQ10 has the potential to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic pressure by 10 mm Hg without significant side effects
The compound that gives the Indian spice turmeric (used in curry) its golden color, curcumin “shows strong anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities when used as a remedy for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases,” including cardiovascular disease, according to a study
So what’s my viewpoint now? I feel in certain cases we do need supplements to optimize our health despite having a well-balanced diet. The one caution is that this industry is not regulated and not all brands are created equal. So I continue to take my supplements daily:CoQ10, Omega 3 Fish Oil with Vitamin D within, Multivitamin. During winter months I add in my Echinacea with Vitamin C. Soon I will be adding in a teaspoon of raw turmeric into my diet.And I advocate specialty lab testing to help determine your risk and create a personalized approach to disease prevention and health. These labs can also help determine that the supplements actually contain what they report.
See a list of some other supplements, that I recommend.