Supplemental Thoughts

A few months ago at my regular, neighborhood grocery store, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this:

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It’s an entire aisle of supplements.

You can’t even see the vitamins, but trust me, they took up a good amount of real estate, too.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a nutritionist.  I cannot, within the scope of professional ethics of my personal training certification, tell you what to eat or drink.  (And, by the way, any personal trainer who does is operating outside of his/her scope of practice, unless s/he holds nutrition or dietitian certification.)

But what I can tell you is that I think that an entire aisle of supplements is a major statement about a) our food supply, b) our expectations of diet and nutrition, and c) an industry that cares more about profits than health.

You get no argument from me that the food supply in the US is a mess.  I get that. But is adding lab-made supplements into our diet really good for us?  If we’re working hard to eschew chemicals in our food, why knowingly ingest some because the marketing tells us it’s “good”?  Shouldn’t we focus our consumer efforts on buying organic from the dirty dozen and seeking out local sources as much as possible?

I also think that the skyrocketing sales of supplements is merely a symptom of the cultural disconnect we have between diet and nutrition.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could eat all the fatty, salty and rich foods we wanted because we could just take xyz supplement, too, and be back on the straight-and-narrow of clean, healthy nutrition?!  It’s not that easy, folks.  Quality in equals quality out, and like my first point, I’d rather just stick with quality intake.

But what I really thought when I walked down the grocery aisle was, “WOW.  Here’s an industry making money hand-over-fist for products that haven’t necessarily been proven to do anything that they claim.”  And even if they have, were the tests conducted on Olympic athletes (who have star marketing power as well as very different nutritional profiles than the rest of us) or on regular, everyday consumers?  This is an industry that preys on hero worship and media-driven ideals of beauty and masculinity.  Their interest in your health is questionable.

It’s no secret that I’m a skeptic when it comes to supplements.  I have no doubt that some people feel supplements improve their lives.  But until I have hard data (like a blood test showing I’m deficient in a particular vitamin or nutrient), my efforts– both financial and temporal– are going to buying, preparing, and eating the highest-quality food I can.

Good health and great happiness to you.


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