Thursday, 23 September 2021

T To Your Health

Supplement Wisely

One of our friends often addresses groups of doctors on the subject of nutrition. For several years now, he’s been taking an informal poll as he launches into his subject. “How many of you supplement?” he asks. Ordinarily, 60 to 70 percent raise their hands. “Why?” he asks, to which he hears a variety of answers, the main point being, “Just in case I’m not getting everything I need from what I eat.”

Dr. Paul Williams, an ER physician, described his own experience with this dilemma: “I used to have a shelf in my kitchen that was dedicated to my row of bottles. And every day I would take some Vitamin A, B-Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, selenium, chromium, dolomite, lecithin...and others I’ve forgotten by now. I thought then, 20 and 25 years ago, that I’d better do this because by the year 2000, I’m sure we’ll have evidence that either I should have been doing this, or at least I did not do myself any harm. As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts,” he admitted.


About 62 percent of Americans reported in 2002 that they had used a supplement during the previous twelve months. This represented a 23.7 percent increase since 1987—a veritable windfall for companies that produce such products, for the stores that sell them, and for the small army of entrepreneurial distributors hawking products person-to-person, the true contents of which no one really knows.

But for a moment, let’s forget statistics and go count the supplements on your shelves. If you take only a multivitamin with mineral supplement, you’re rare indeed, though you’re probably not aware of which brands of multivitamin with mineral supplements are actually good, and not potentially harmful, to you. More likely, you’re also taking a single nutrient vitamin such as Vitamin C or E, or folic acid if you’re pregnant, a single nutrient mineral such as calcium or iron, or a combination of these. You may be taking Vitamin A (beta carotene), B-Complex, zinc, selenium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, or others supplements like aloe, echinacea, garlic, ginseng, ginko biloba, glucosamine, grape seed extract, lecithin, milk thistle, St. John’s wort, fish oil or flaxseed oil (both sources of Omega-3 fatty acids) amino acids, or other energy-enhancing or body-building supplements. If you’re taking all these, plus others, you surely need a large cabinet to store them in safely, since you would not want the kids getting into them or you’ll end up calling the poison hotline!

One reason you’re supplementing with whatever you’re using is that you read somewhere (or perhaps heard from a friend) that a particular substance can achieve something that you like the sound of—more energy, protection against cancer or chronic disease, relief from symptoms you already have, improved memory or physical or sexual performance, and so forth. Your assumption may be that while whatever you’re popping may not prove to be the magic bullet for anything in particular, at least it won’t hurt you. If so, one question begs to be answered: Are you sure you know what you’re doing?

I once estimated the number of dietary supplements displayed via the relatively meager shelf space in a local grocery store in the small town where I lived in Colorado. There were more than 350 different containers of vitamins, minerals, combinations of vitamins and minerals, herbs, botanicals, and other supplements available. In a superstore or city supermarket, this number might be doubled, perhaps tripled.

Yet who really knows what all these products are, what they do, and especially how they interact with each other or with prescription medications the buyer might be taking? So buyer beware...and be informed, because what you don’t know might hurt you—actually, it might kill you, quickly or slowly, depending on what the product in question is, the dose, and whether you take it in isolation or with other supplements.

Supplement facts and fiction:


  • About 30,000 nutritional supplements are available in the U.S.A. Government controls have been lax in some areas, and safety is a valid concern. In many cases, the purity and concentration of a particular product’s nutrient may not match the manufacturer’s claims.
  • If your diet is rich in a variety of ripe, raw vegetables and fruit daily (or the micronutrients of the same via some other means), you probably need no additional vitamins or minerals except Omega 3 fatty acids (via certain fish, supplements of fish oil or to a lesser degree, the oils of legumes such as flaxseed).
  • You should not take any manufactured vitamin or mineral in isolation or in megadoses, except with the advice and consent of your physician;
  • Vitamins, minerals, food supplements, herbs, or other non-prescribed alternative medicine products may interact with other medicines that you are taking and interfere with their absorption or breakdown and removal from body. Always inform your doctor about any diet you are on or supplements that you may be taking.
  • Some products are not what they claim to be; for example, anti-aging products claiming to be “human growth hormone” (HGH) are peddled on the Internet. These are not true HGH, or even synthetic HGH, which is available only by prescription, but substances that are supposed to increase your body’s production of HGH.
  • USDA scientists have developed the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, which has identified certain “superfoods” that have up to twenty times the antioxidant power of other foods. All the top foods are vegetables and fruits—see Appendix 3. Artificially produced “antioxidant” supplements, even in megadoses (see warning above) cannot provide what these simple foods provide because...
  • Many artificial supplements are not very “bioavailable,” which means that the body does not actually absorb or use them efficiently, possibly because they are not natural. For example, while a small apple contains only 5.1 mg of Vitamin C, the effect of its beneficial food compounds (polyphenols and flavonoids) equals the effect of 1,500 mg of Vitamin C. Without doubt, getting your vitamins and minerals from natural foods is always better than avoiding real food and trying to cover your nutritional backside with a potpourri of pills.


  • If you can buy a supplement in a natural food store or on online, it must be safe.
  • You can believe what you read about supplements in “health” magazines. One such “magazine” markets hundreds of supplements, many supposedly for specific conditions.
  • “Thermogenic” products, meal replacement products, and diet shakes can “burn off” fat.
  • Cellulite can be effectively treated with pills, creams, or other supplements. Though some creams may have temporary effects, none has been shown to have a permanent effect. One of the more humorous claims related to this was made in 2004 by an Italian jean manufacturer, which touted “jean therapy” for cellulite as a result of friction during wear releasing anti-cellulite cream embedded in the fabric—for a mere $139 per pair.

[1] The text of this article is the basis for a chapter by the same name in the book: 70 Ways to Beat 70, by David B. Biebel, DMin; James E. Dill, MD; and, Bobbie Dill, RN. All rights reserved.

[1] Copyright 2004, National Safety Associates, Inc., PO Box 18603, Memphis, TN 38181.

[1] See

[1] In Nutripoints, Dr. Vartabedian lists eleven of the most common vitamin and mineral supplements available in the U.S., not because he would necessarily recommend any of them, but because some of his patients insist on taking such supplements, so he wanted to ensure that their choices would advance their health, or at least not hurt them. Only two of the products passed. See pgs. 56-58, 1996 revision.

[1] The most reliable review of herbal remedies, vitamins, and dietary supplements that we know of from a Christian perspective can be found in Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, by Donal O’Mathuna, Ph.D., and Walt Larimore, M.D. (Zondervan, 2001), pages 288-465.

[1] You can stay abreast of supplement facts at—annual subscription required. The Mayo Clinic’s website has free data available on about 100 supplements. Go to: and enter the substance’s name. A searchable database is available at: When evaluating any specific product, look for the stamp of approval—USP Verified—of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP): see NSF International maintains a list of supplements that contain what’s listed on the label, are free of contaminants, and manufactured in a legitimate way. Or, if you prefer a more lay-oriented but trustworthy evaluation of a variety of supplements, see Oprah magazine, June 2004 “A Dose of Reality.”

[1] See: for information on the health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids.

[1] Reason: Certain common supplements when taken in mega doses or in isolation can have detrimental health effects. These include Vitamin E (, Vitamin C (, Beta-Carotene (, and Iron, which is unnecessary in most people who are eating enough iron-rich foods, and can be dangerous (

[1] Note: The most effective anti-aging strategy is to reduce oxidative damage to your DNA through ingestion of whole, ripe vegetables, fruits, grains, berries, and grapes. Since your DNA can only replicate itself about 50 times in your lifetime, the healthier you keep your DNA, the slower you will age.

[1] Nature, Vol. 405, pg. 903.


1108246199885 lists the following as the dirty dozen of supplements to avoid: Aristolochic acid, Comfrey, Androstenedione, Chaparral, Germander, Kava, Bitter orange, Organ/glandular extracts, Lobelia, Pennyroyal oil, Scullcap, Yohimbe.


Note: Nothing in this article or any article or book authored or published by Dr. Biebel is intended as medical advice or to replace the advice and/or treatment of a qualified medical professional, which he is not. He is a “soul doctor” committed to passing along what he believes to be reliable health-related information, which a reader may use at his or her own risk.

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

DBiebel headshot


Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.

His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press ( to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE


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