Coach Kelli: Do Dietary Supplements Really Work?

When you observe groups of people in different pockets of the world who live to over 100 years old in good health, with no medical assistance, who contribute to their families and are of sound mind, you’ll find that they don’t frequent the local vitamin store and stock up on the latest supplements.

My message of living in health has been congruent with the trends seen in those who live long lives in optimal health.  The prescription, which I refer to as the pillars of health, includes daily physical activity, eating wholesome and nutritious foods in their most raw state, sleeping seven or more hours a night, managing, eliminating or delegating stress as best you can, having a spiritual connection, purpose and family support.  Never was supplementation a part of that formula.  I was of the school of thought that you can get all of the nutrition you need from your food. 

The reality is that in 2011, that’s increasingly more difficult.  First, the source of our food and water has been contaminated as animals are pumped with steroids, antibiotics and hormones, plants are doused in pesticides and herbicides, and water is polluted. When you start with contaminated food sources it’s more difficult to achieve health.  Also, most people are not eating the best foods, but instead consuming an American diet of processed junk, sugary snacks, caffeinated beverages, “diet” foods and are not meeting the recommended 35 grams of fiber a day or 5–7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  The average American consumes 160 pounds of sugar, 23 pounds of pizza and 200 pounds of meat a year.

At times it can be hard to get all of the nutrients you need even if you are on a meticulous diet.  It’s also challenging if you are a vegetarian, are pregnant or have food sensitivities.  That’s compounded with the fact that people are more sleep deprived, have less restful sleep and for many, stress is chronic.  When you look at the reality that 1 in 12 people had cancer in the 1970’s and now in 2011, one in two people have cancer, you have to stop and ask what we are doing so very wrong with our lifestyles.  Over 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year.  And cancer is not the only disease that is growing with direct lifestyle connections. Others conditions include diabetes, heart disease, behavior disorders, joint pain and even allergies. 

When people start to experience signs and symptoms that their body is in distress, they typically turn to over-the-counter drugs and then eventually prescription solutions for headaches, high cholesterol, join pain, poor digestion and the like.  At times medicine is needed, however your body is miraculously made and designed to be well, even despite how poor choices or modern times may affect it.   

So the questions are posed:  Do we really need supplements and do they really work?  Even under the best conditions of eating, sleeping, exercising and taking ownership of life’s stressors, there is a depletion of vitamins and minerals and a toxic overload that is evidenced by the amount of disease that we are witnessing.  A blood chemistry profile may even show that ranges are within normal limits, but that does not mean the body is functioning optimally.  That’s where supplements come in.  They work best when combined with a nutritious diet and the other pillars of health.

Supplement means “the extra”. They are taken in addition to making the best choices.  Supplements provide nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids or amino acids that may be missing or insufficient in a person’s diet.   There are times when you could not possibly eat the quantity of food needed to get your body back into balance or combat an illness or disorder.  For example, if someone has an inflammatory condition, they could get up to 30 vegetables and 20 fruits along with glutathione in a serving of a supplement that could provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.  There are also certain natural ingredients including roots and berries that when combined have healing properties, boost immunity, improve joint health, support cellular regeneration,  improve digestion and even burn fat. 

The American dietetic association recommends everyone, including children, take a multi-vitamin, but they are not all created equal.   A visit to the health food store can be an overwhelming experience. It’s tough to figure out what to choose from among the dizzying assortment available.  Getting a bottle off of the shelf in a big box store is not the same as one formulated using the purest ingredients without synthetics.  The FDA does have a division that regulates supplements.

There are many categories of supplements and much debate even among the experts as to who needs what kind of supplements and in what dosages.  As always, consult health care professionals, and do not attempt to treat or diagnose conditions that require professional care.  Americans tend to overdue things thinking, “If some is good, more is better”. That is not the case for supplements.  The fat soluble vitamins especially can build up on your body and become toxic. 

Kelli Calabrese is a clinical exercise physiologist with a variety of certifications in nutrition and coaching.  She is the international master trainer for Adventure Boot Camp and the coach for Argyle Boot Camp.  She is the fitness expert for Montel Williams and a consultant for Isagenix – The world leader in whole-body nutritional cleansing, cellular replenishing & youthful again.  Visit, e-mail [email protected] or call 817-490-1296.


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