The Truth About Dietary Supplements
No diet is perfect. No person is perfect. So it makes sense that even the most disciplined man will have trouble sticking to any diet with no setbacks or slip-‐ups.
This is one of the main reasons I advocate daily supplementation as part of of an arsenal regimen towards wellness. Supplements can ensure you fill any nutritional gaps and won’t feel discouraged if you cannot follow a perfect eating regimen all the time and everywhere you go.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS CAN’T DO
Don’t fool yourself. Dietary supplements are not drugs or miracle workers that can cure a disease by themselves. Nor can they counteract the effects of a poor lifestyle filled with inadequate foods and little to no physical movement.
However, the judicious use of dietary supplements containing natural agents can assist in slowing or stopping cancer progression and development. The right type of supplements in the right combination and in the right amounts can support a healthy immune system, block pathways that promote prostate cancer, and reduce inflammatory markers that can influence cancer progression and promote overall health.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS CAN DO
The right combination of supplements can help you live your best life, halt the progression of many diseases and help prevent many aging health problems. Selected supplementation works to address these five areas:
- boost immunity
- interrupt cancer formation
- reduce oxidative stress
- modulate inflammation
- improve detoxification
While developing human research with supplement use can be exorbitantly expensive, there are some studies to support the use of supplement pills.
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Studies Supporting the Use of Dietary Supplements
The Physicians’ Health Study, evaluating the impact on men using a regular multivitamin (MVM) supplement demonstrated a modest 8% reduction in total cancer incidence in men taking a multivitamin. In addition, men with a history of cancer derived the most benefit from MVM supplementation, with a 27% lower incidence of new cancer versus placebo. (Gaziano et al. 2012)
The French Supplémentation en Vitamines et Minéraux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) RCT evaluated a supplement containing ascorbic acid 120 mg, vitamin E 30 mg, β-carotene 6 mg, selenium 100 µg, and zinc 20 mg. This supplement was associated with a 31% reduction in overall cancer incidence and a 37% reduction in overall mortality in men (ages 45–60 years), after a median intake of about 7.5 years. (Hercberg et al. 2004)
The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) study, showed that selenized yeast, SelenoExcell® significantly reduced the risk of many cancer, including cancers of the lung, colon, and prostate, as well as total cancer incidence and mortality. (Clark et al. 1996)
A meta-analysis of 19 RCTs of B vitamins (including folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and B-complex vitamins) found no effect of supplementation on rates of cardiovascular risk despite significant reductions in homocysteine levels; however, risk of stroke was reduced by 12%. (Huang et al. 2012)
In the randomized Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), over a median of 6.3 years, high doses of 3 vitamins with antioxidant properties (500 mg/d vitamin C, 400 IU/d vitamin E, and 15 mg/d β-carotene) with zinc (80 mg zinc oxide) significantly reduced the risk of progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 28% and reduced the risk of any lens opacity by 16% and of nuclear cataract by 25%. (Milton et al. 2006)
In an RCT of healthy adults aged 18 to 86 years, a supplement containing the vitamins folic acid (400 μg), vitamin B12 (6 μg), and vitamin E (30 IU alpha-tocopherol), as well as S-adenosylmethionine (400 mg), N-acetyl cysteine (600 mg), and acetyl-L-carnitine (500 mg) improved cognitive performance for the duration of its use only. (Chan et al. 2006)
Why Dietary Supplements Use have received a Bad Rap
Over the years, though, dietary supplements have received a bad rap either through studies that question their effectiveness and safety or by deceptive claims from unscrupulous dietary supplement companies. On one end, poorly designed studies and bad hype have given supplements an undeserved black eye.
On the other end, some dietary supplement facilities have either poor, noncompliant manufacturing practices or make unfounded claims that damage the reputation of all similar companies. This has caused many people to shy away from supplements even though they are often safe and potentially helpful.
The best example of the power of one bad study is the $170 million-plus Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT study. You may have read about it. The headlines proclaimed that taking selenium alone or in combination with vitamin E not only did not lower your risk of prostate cancer it actually could increase it.
Yet, one problem with the study was that it used only a single form of selenium (selenomethionine) and not the three different forms that were found protective against multiple cancers in high selenized yeast from SelenoExcell. If you think that is bad news, it gets worse. The study used only one form of vitamin E, a synthetic form known as dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate. Previous research has shown that when alpha tocopherol is taken by itself, it displaces gamma tocopherol—the form of vitamin E that is the most protective against prostate cancer and found in food.
So by supplementing aging men with only one form of vitamin E and one form of selenium, the SELECT scientists may have unwittingly increased subjects’ prostate cancer risk by depriving prostate cells of essential critical gamma tocopherol, vitamin E, and the form selenium in high selenized yeast, SelenoExcell.
It may sound a bit confusing, but this is a classic example of how headlines and misleading information can tarnish the image of safe medicine. All you hear in the news is that vitamin E and selenium increase prostate cancer risk. Of course, not all stories on supplements are wrong as with the SELECT study, but it just solidifies how supplements can get an unfortunate negative image that may stick in the public’s mind.
The bottom line: The right supplement combination has an important role in wellness, and is crucial in any serious wellness program.
Selected supplementation is at the center of my naturopathic approach to medicine and wellness. There is much solid research along with my anecdotal evidence from patients illustrating that the right supplement combination is an integral part of overall wellness for men.
Stay tuned and stay well,
Geo Espinosa, N.D., L.Ac, C.N.S., is a renowned naturopathic doctor recognized as an authority in integrative management of male and urological conditions. Dr. Geo is the founder and director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), a center of excellence in research and integrative treatments for urological conditions.