One Pill with Everything for the Heart?
~ December 2001 No.140 ~
Can you ever get too much of a good thing? Well, perhaps. More and more evidence is accumulating that certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in common foods are good for your heart. Foods, unfortunately, usually contain only small amounts of particular nutrients and so, unless you want to eat large quantities of the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is often difficult to get large quantities of these healthy nutrients when eating a normal diet. This is the whole idea of nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals are sold in pill, capsule or powder form and contain a wide variety of nutrients in a concentrated form.
Nutritionists argue that when you eat a food, you get a wide variety of nutrients, not just the one you are interested in and that is good for you. That is true, but many people are buying nutraceuticals because of the convenience and the growing evidence which shows you need a regular intake of these beneficial food ingredients in high doses.
At first nutraceutical products contained only one or two ingredients and were targeted for general health. But the new generation of nutraceuticals is targeted towards specific diseases or conditions, and can contain a large number of often totally unrelated ingredients. For example, a pill advertised as being good for those worried about heart disease may contain one, some, or all of the following :allium compounds, folic acid, selenium, polyphenols, soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, zinc. For each individual compound there have been reports on the beneficial effects on heart disease. However, there is no evidence to prove that if you combine three of these ingredients triple your benefits.
As in so many other examples, it is a case of buyer beware. Supplements have their place in a health lifestyle for many individuals, but at the present time no one is producing the magic bullet which will cure all ills, or even one ill such as heart disease. And of course you can always eat foods that are high in the active ingredients you are looking for.
VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENT FACT SHEETS
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements