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  • Luke

Only take supplements you actually need

It can be difficult in the modern world to get all the nutrients needed for optimal health from food sources alone due to suboptimal farming methods and excessive food processing.

Most health-conscious individuals are already aware of this fact and the usual course of action is to take a multivitamin tablet along with a few fish oil capsules daily.

This is not a good approach and in this article I will explain why. I will also detail a better approach.

What's wrong with taking a multivitamin?

There are several reasons why taking a multivitamin isn't a great idea:

1. Many of the minerals are poorly absorbed because they are present in forms that have poor bioavailability, for example, magnesium oxide. In general you want minerals to be amino acid chelated for optimal absorption.

Magnesium glycinate is far superior to magnesium oxide for this reason. The same applies to other minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, copper, etc.

2. Some of the minerals may be in harmful forms, for example, calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is linked to increased risk of kidney stone formation. Calcium citrate is much safer and does not have this problem. However, calcium citrate is still poorly absorbed compared to an amino acid chelated form of calcium.

3. More often than not there are excessive amounts of B vitamins present in multivitamin formulations. It's not uncommon to see 2000% of the daily recommended amount for certain B vitamins.

You certainly don't want to be deficient in any of the B vitamins but it's not safe to be taking a pill that contains 20 times more than you need, plus whatever you're getting from food as well.

Many people assume that because the B vitamins are water soluble there is no risk of toxicity or harm, this is a fallacy.

4. Most B vitamins are present in inactive forms rather than active forms, such as folic acid instead of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) for example.

Folic acid is inactive and needs to be converted by the liver to the active form 5-MTHF. Some people have a common gene mutation that inhibits the conversion of folic acid to 5-MTHF as well as inhibiting the conversion of several other B vitamins from their inactive to active forms.

People with this gene mutation can become very sick if they take high doses of inactive B vitamins.

5. Multivitamins likely contain minerals you don't need any more of, for example, iron. Men don't need as much iron as women and need to be careful not to get too much or it can cause iron overload which has serious implications for your health. If you include dairy in your diet you likely won't need any extra calcium either. You get the idea.

6. There often isn't a meaningful amount of important vitamins or they are in the wrong forms. For example, the multivitamin might contain only 500 iu of vitamin D3 when you need 5000 iu to see health benefits.

Perhaps it contains vitamin K in the form of K1 instead of K2 (I prefer MK-4 instead of MK-7). Perhaps it contains only alpha tocopherol for vitamin E when it should also contain gamma tocopherol etc.

What's wrong with fish oil?

The problem with fish oil supplements is that some of the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content is oxidized. DHA is a critical building block for brain tissue and you absolutely do not want oxidized DHA being incorporated into your brain.

The health ramifications of this would require a separate article to detail but the take-home point is that oxidized fish oil is toxic and essentially all fish oil you buy is oxidized to some extent.

So if I don't recommend multivitamins or fish oil what do I recommend instead?

I recommend starting with great nutrition. Eat primarily whole foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed. Things like red meat, whole eggs, full-fat dairy products, sweet potatoes, vegetables, white basmati rice (a rare exception where the processed form is preferred), macadamia nuts and blueberries etc.

It won't kill you to eat processed foods from time to time but make sure at least 90% of your nutrition comes from real food. If you do this most of your nutrient needs will be met and you will only need to use targeted supplementation to fill in any gaps.

What are some supplements that I recommend or take myself?

I believe that supplements are conditionally beneficial and need to be prescribed on an individual basis. However, there are some supplements that are almost without exception beneficial for everyone. I call these staple supplements.

Examples of staple supplements:

- Vitamin D3

- Vitamin K2 (MK-4 is preferred over MK-7)

- Vitamin E (alpha and gamma tocopherol combined)

- Vitamin C

- Magnesium (amino acid chelated form)

- Creatine monohydrate

Examples of conditionally beneficial supplements:

- Zinc (if you don't eat much red meat)

- Iron (if diagnosed with iron deficiency)

- Calcium (if you don't eat much dairy)

- Biotin (if you don't eat eggs)

- Copper (if you don't eat nuts or liver)

This list is not exhaustive but you get the idea. Only supplement what is needed to fill in any gaps in your nutrition.

As for specific dosage information that is beyond the scope of this article. If you ever choose to become a client a fully personalized supplementation plan is included. We will identify which supplements you need, dosages needed and we will even recommend which specific products to buy.

What about DHA and omega 3 in general?

Given that essentially all commercially available fish oil supplements are oxidized I can't in good faith recommend taking them. This leaves us with two options:

1. Eat some salmon twice per week. Make sure to buy fresh salmon not canned or smoked or any garbage like that. The serving sizes don't need to be huge, just 3.5 ounces or 100 grams is plenty. Eating too much fish has its own problems but 7 ounces (or 200 grams) a week is not going to cause harm.

2. Eat a lot of free-range eggs and make sure your red meat and dairy is grass-fed. Eggs are quite rich in DHA, especially free-range eggs, but it has to be real free-range where the hens can roam outside and forage for natural food sources. Unfortunately in some places eggs can be labelled free-range if the hens merely have access to a small outdoor area where they can't forage.

Watch the video below if you'd like to listen to Jason share his experiences and tips regarding supplementation:


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