Nutritional Supplements

For three reasons, nutritional supplements may be a good idea for most people.  First, food quality varies -- studies show that nutrient quality of foods available in the marketplace today is often less than in the past.  Soils were formerly richer, fruits and vegetables were harvested closer to maximum ripeness, animals were not routinely fed antibiotics and hormones, and food processing retained more nutritional content.  There are many exceptions in which some nutrients are more plentiful today, such as drinks with added vitamins, and frozen and dried foods approaching harvest freshness.  Nevertheless, food quality is generally less than when our ancestors consumed fresh food harvested from family gardens, or from fresh game.

Where food quality has been impaired, nutritional supplements can make up for resulting nutritional deficits.  While dieticians may rightly say that a nutritional deficit should be proven before buying a supplement, nutritional levels are never checked in most people, and even when they are, a large number of critical nutrients are not included in the testing.   For many nutrients, there are no established standard levels to compare against.

The second reason concerns food safety.  Food safety of the historic sort is generally not an issue here, because both foods and food supplements are relatively safe from bacteria and viruses.  Food safety practices are stringent today, to avoid spoilage and microbial contamination.  Instances of microbial contamination of food are relatively rare, even if they are well-publicised.

There is, however, one significant concern in food safety today -- the issue of toxins in foods, based on the proliferation of man-made chemicals released into the environment and involved in all manufacturing.  Many individual toxins have been proven to be below the threshold of measurement capability, or in such low concentrations that no identifiable effects can be shown.  But this finding is not satisfactory for resolving the issue, because the synergistic effects of multiple toxins at low levels may be significant.  For the most part, synergistic effects have not been investigated.  To perform the necessary studies is very difficult and time-consuming, because all possible combinations of toxins and their different concentration levels have to be studied.  There are thousands of man-made chemicals in the environment today, a situation that has only existed in the last 50 years.  Our ancestors were not exposed to the variety and levels of toxins now affecting us.  Because of toxins, our immune systems confront many dangers not affecting our ancestors.  Nutritional supplements can help ensure that our immune systems are working at peak efficiency.

A case can be made that our immune systems are compromised, either by impaired food quality, or dietary choices, or environmental toxins.  Perhaps all three are involved.  Frequency data on immune system disorders and consequent diseases show large increases over the past several decades; obviously, something is wrong.  In this context, optimizing the immune system via very careful choices of foods and nutritional supplements is advised.

The third reason for taking nutritional supplements is convenience.  Diets today are frequently much less diverse than in the past, because of personal food choices, and often because of lifestyle choices -- we're on the go and spend less time than our ancestors in selecting foods and preparing the table.  The fast food industry that developed in the past half-century has significantly affected our eating habits.   The average person consumes a restricted diet of less than optimally healthy foods.  To some extent, this situation can be overcome by wise choice of nutritional supplements.