. . .by Werner Berger, health advocate and Guinness Book of World Records holder for being the oldest person in the world to have climbed the 7-Summits (including Mt. Everest)1

Do I really need to take dietary supplements?

To take dietary supplements or not has been controversial for sometime – however, that’s no longer the case! We absolutely need them! Now the question becomes, what is useful and what might be dangerous? You see, anyone multivitamin is simply not the same as another. And numerous in-depth studies have shown that of the 1500+ broad spectrum products on the US and Canadian markets, 2/3 of them have absolutely no value to the human body. Also, what’s on the label, in over 50% of the products tested, is not in the bottle. Deceptively, and what might be considered even worse, is that the two most highly advertised products on the market have an efficacy rating (usefulness) of only 1.9% and 3.2%.

There is some good news. According to the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, there are 60 multi vitamins (out of more than the 1500 mentioned above) that score over 66% usefulness, and twelve companies with product that exceed 80%. 

Why supplements?

nutritional supplements

Finally, after years of negating the need for supplementation, the prestigious AMA (American Medical Association) concludes,

“a large proportion of the general population has less-than-optimal intakes of a number of vitamins and minerals which exposes them to increased disease risk,” and then counsels, "it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.”

Also, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) states,

“inadequate intake or subtle deficiencies in several vitamins are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. In addition, pregnancy or alcohol use, may increase vitamin requirements.”

Facts are, the standard American diet no longer supports optimum health. Mass farming methods with their use of chemical fertilizers and toxic spays, artificial ripening, extended shelf life and growing crops on micro-nutrient depleted soils no longer produce the nutrient rich produce of the past. In addition, a reduction in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the increase in fast and processed foods, further reduces our nutrient intake.

Disease states

English proverb

“Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.”

It has long been recognized that the three main killer diseases in the US and Canada are heart disease, cancer and stroke. The question is, can a correlation be drawn between illnesses and the foods we consume, the toxins we ingest and our changed lifestyles? Research says, “yes.” Cardiovascular disease, virtually unheard of in the early 20th century, is now the number one killer. It is even showing up in pre-teens [and early childhood]. Cancer is number two and stroke number three.

Correlations between micro-nutrient deficiencies

and disease states


Low Levels Disease​ State

  • Folic acid, vitamins B6 and B 12
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Vitamin D
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin E & Lycopene
  • Carotenoid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Heart disease (increase risk)

Anemia and neurological disorders

Osteoporosis and fracture

Neural tube defects and cancers

Prostate Cancer

Breast, prostate and lung cancer

Vision degeneration, reduce immune functions


nutritional supplements

Vertical ridges on the fingernails as a symptom of vitamin deficiency

Let’s be clear. A well-balanced diet of at least five (5) fruits and vegetables, with complex carbohydrates and fiber, each day, is the foundation to good health. However, most of us, especially with our fast pace life styles, nutritionally depleted foods and high caloric and processed food habits, need to also ingest high-quality (and non synthetic) nutritional supplements on a daily basis.

Medical advances have extended life expectancy during the last 100 years. However, the news is not all good because living longer does not equate to living healthier. Some statistics indicate that 89% of our population do not live to what is now referred to as old age. Instead they succumb to degenerative diseases. And, unfortunately amongst these survivors, 85% spend their last 15 years in pain and suffering, only sustained by pharmaceutical drugs and medications.

Unfortunately, many people simply expect the onset of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis as the inevitable result of aging. Instead we must accept these conditions to be lifestyle and diet related and hence preventable or, at least, delayed.

Can supplements be harmful?

The ingredients used in dietary supplements are rarely an issue of concern. This is with the exception of the cumulative toxicity of Vitamin A (a synthetic form) and Iron (rarely present in multi-vitamins). For example, dosages of more than 10,000 IU ( IU = international units) of vitamin A has been associated with birth defects. Hence, substituting vitamin A with Betacarotene, and keeping the A level below 5000 IU, is recommended during pregnancy. Iron, at high doses has been linked to atherosclerosis, cancer, heart attack and risks of infection. Iron should never be added unless blood testing indicates a deficiency.

The greatest concerns related to supplements are purity and potency. Also of note, safe intake levels of virtually all supplements are significantly higher than the present DRI’s (Dietary Reference Intake) recommendation. The latter were establish in the US and Canada predominantly to counteract severe deficiencies that could lead to ‘ancient’ diseases such as scurvy. Many nutrients like thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, vitamin B5, B6 and B12, and K, both from food or supplementation have no upper limits – too much and our bodies simply eliminate them.

Laws governing the dietary supplementation practices are more stringent in Canada and other countries, such as Australia, then in the US. In fact, there are no current US regulations related to manufacturing standards, pre-and post market approval, market surveillance, nor a requirement for licensing.

The onus is on the consumer to research product providers who adhere to GMP (good manufacturing practices) and even better, have implemented  Pharmacopia standards. For more information on failed products, check out ConsumerLabs.com.

1 *Werner has been on high quality supplements for the last 24 years and claims, “I would not still be climbing at my age (81) without having had this support in micronutrient intake.

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