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Can we live on Supplements?

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

The amount of scientific evidence we have on dietary supplements is mixed with many information on some, but very limited on others.

Dietary supplement intake should be an addition, only if necessary, to an already balanced nutrition.

The only time, one should live on supplements or elemental diets (composed of purified ingredients intended to supply essential nutrients) is if someone is unable to, or cannot eat real foods due to severe medical condition.

For instance, if you are in the hospital recovering from nutrient deficiencies, infections, wounds and/or have had surgery, then this practice would be one of the few times when you may depend/live on supplements to recover, but this would be temporary as food is superior.

Most research shows that taking for example multivitamin supplement doesn’t result in living longer, slowing cognitive decline, or “lowering the chances” of getting cancer, heart disease, and/ or diabetes.

Our focus should be creating a balanced nutrition that offers the nutrients we need to help us create optimal health.


There seems to be a high rate in food companies suggesting that dietary supplements can treat illnesses.

However, studies have shown little evidence of efficacy exists for some dietary supplements. (Starr, 2015)

Here are three studies found:

One study found in the Journal of Medicine estimated that at least 1 in 12 US adults take botanical dietary supplements known to cause kidney damage; other dietary supplements are known carcinogens, hepatotoxins, hormone modulators, and sympathomimetics. (Cohen, 2009)

Another study revealed that dietary supplements may be adulterated with dangerous compounds, be contaminated, fail to contain the purported active ingredient, or contain unknown doses of the ingredients stated on the label; be sold at toxic dosages; or produce harmful effects as a result of their interaction with other drugs. (Starr, 2015)

For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in 2007, concluded that, “Treatment with β-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study” (Kamangar & Emadi, 2012)

I am not telling you not to consume dietary supplements at all, but I am encouraging you to be cautious and use good judgment when deciding what to put into your body.

In conclusion, dietary supplements are treated as food and are not well regulated by the FDA. Therefore,we may be consuming low quality ingredients that may instead become harmful to our health. Due to many other factors and studies found and shared above. Living or depending on supplements alone may not be a good idea or health investment.

Suggestions when buying supplements:

- Always consult with an expert first

- Only consume after you’ve had a good evaluation on what your body truly is missing with.

- Only consume if you already have a good nutrition to help supplement.

- Do extensive research, and I don’t mean Google. I mean journals where studies have been done and there is evidence.

- Research side effects and benefits.

-Research supplements brands. Stick to reputable places and brands.

- Do not do what everyone else is doing. Your body is completely unique, it will not require the same of anything as someone else.

- After you’ve done extensive research. Look for supplements that are food based.

- Research the time frame you should take them for. Supplements are not made for long term usage.

- For whey protein, look for products that have 4-5 ingredients max. Anything more than that may be good indicator of super processed protein and added ingredients may be used to make your protein digestible. Eeek!

Be cautious and very picky when deciding on what brand to consume.

In the end, we want to help minimize any digestive woes, and truly works on our health and not put it at risk.


Cohen, P. A. (2009). American Roulette — Contaminated Dietary Supplements. New England Journal of Medicine,361(16), 1523-1525. doi:10.1056/nejmp0904768

Gad, S. C., & Gad, S. E. (2003). Are Dietary Supplements Safe as Currently Regulated? The Great Debate. International Journal of Toxicology, 22(5), 381–385.

Kamangar, F., & Emadi, A. (2012). Vitamin and mineral supplements: do we really need them?. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3(3), 221-6.

Starr, R. R. (2015). Too Little, Too Late: Ineffective Regulation of Dietary Supplements in the United States. American Journal of Public Health,105(3), 478-485. doi:10.2105/ajph.2014.302348

The National Institute of Mental Health. Using Dietary Supplements Wisely. Retrieved on February 6, 2019 from


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