Recently, the question of supplements has come up multiples times. Specially, I’ve been asked what supplements I take or recommend for increased performance, health, and longevity. First, anytime I receive a question about supplements, I remind and emphasize the word “SUPPLEMENT.” Supplements are meant to supplement your already healthy diet. Second, I always try hard to shy away from using myself as an example for any answer. What is good for me, or works for me, may not work for you. Finally, the science is still out about which supplements actually help you and which do nothing. Every year it seems to change.
Do Supplements Actually Work?
The said, here are a list of supplements that are commonly accepted as beneficial and the scienctific opinion of their benefit hasn’t changed recently:
1. Calcium: As we age, smoking, lack of weight-bearing exercise, and deceased estrogen/testosterone negatively impact bone density. If you don’t get a lot of calcium from your diet, adding a supplement with weight-bearing exercise may help to counteract this loss.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil): Omega-3s help in the fight against inflammation in your body. Research also suggests it may help slow decline in brain health, reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis, and can aid in the prevention of heart disease. If you want a vegan version, try algal oil.
3. Collagen: This is a protein found in skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adding a supplement can help improve skin hydration and elasticity, and may help reduce joint pain and stiffness. Unfortunately, research showing the effectiveness of a vegan substitute is rare.
4. Coenzyme Q10: Low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with several health conditions, including, heart failure, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and degenerative brain conditions. As we age, our body produces less. So, a supplement may be helpful.
5. Vitamin D: This is a vitamin produced by our body when we are exposed to the sun. However, adults who don’t make it outside much risk a deficit. There are studies that show that adding a supplement helps with the absorbtion of calcium, may increase muscle mass, decrease depression, and enhance your immune system.
6. Protein: Most adults are not eating enough protein. As we age, we lose muscle mass and strength. Therefore, adding a powder supplement can help increase our daily protein intake and fight against progressive weakness.
What You Should Do
If you want to try one of the above, pick a supplement and add it to your diet. Give it a few weeks, or a month, to settle in. If you don’t see any benefits, don’t waste your money. Move on and try something else. But, remember, supplements are meant to supplement something else. You cannot use supplements to counteract an inefficient diet. Eat all natural food first. Supplement only as needed.