Talking To Your Doctor About Supplements

Here’s an excerpt of Steve Mister’s* letter to the editor about “Skip the Supplements” (by Paul A. Offit and Sarah Erush, New York Times, December 15):

“People today want to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to their health. When consumers believe that their physicians won’t have that informed dialogue, it drives them to be less candid about their supplement use. That would be an unfortunate result for everyone.”

I don’t agree with many of Mister’s claims. Here’s one: “Multivitamins are an excellent source of nutrients to fill in the gaps we miss in our less-than-perfect diets.”

And Mister saying it:

Pills don’t fill gaps, our body fills gaps. It does so by, for instance, increasing absorption and decreasing elimination.

But I agree with that statement he made above, “When consumers believe that their physicians won’t have that informed dialogue, it drives them to be less candid about their supplement use.” Healthcare professionals should be educated on the risks and benefits of supplements, and be willing to engage in a dialog, a non-judgmental conversation. Has that been your experience?

* Mister is president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the trade association for the dietary supplement industry.

7 thoughts on “Talking To Your Doctor About Supplements

  1. RB

    Steve Mister says multivitamins are needed to fill in gaps in ones diet. So if I have a diet without gaps because I eat a lot of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes, I don’t need supplements. Right?

    As far as my doctor is concerned, the last time he talked to me about supplements he simply recommended I take a multivitamin and an omega 3 tablet. He gave no reason for the multivitamin. He didn’t detect any vitamin deficiency during my physical. Of course we all know that we need omega 3 supplements because it is the only source of omega 3 is fish (wink wink), we don’t eat enough fish and we need omega 3 for heart health. At my last physical he didn’t mention supplements so I couldn’t ask “do I have a deficiency?”

    The thing we need to realize is doctors are not nutritionists and are not generally not prepared to talk to patients about how diet affect health. They are most likely not experts on supplements either.

    Since I stopped taking a multivitamin about 2 years ago I have not noticed any change for the worst in my health and my last physical was better than ever. So I agree with the editorial that supplements are a waste of money.

    1. Bix Post author

      Your doctor recommended that you take omega-3. That’s interesting.

      By the way, I saw your walking blog. Neat!

  2. RB

    Yes, my doctor did recommend omega-3. Said something like “it will smooth my arteries”. I didn’t follow his recommendation. I think I get enough omega-3 from plants: beans, chia seeds and flax seed in my diet.
    Glad you liked by blog.

  3. Melinda

    Our doctor found, through our bloodwork, that each of us has too little vitamin D and too much potassium. He said not to eat so many potassium-rich foods (bananas, oranges, etc.). Those are my favorite fruits too! I do, however, take vitamin D supplements. I don’t know why we have vite D deficiencies. We eat beans, greens, fruits, other veggies, grains, nuts…. and very occasionally some sardines or other small oily fish. And *one* of us (me) gets out into the sun spring to fall, while the other is glued to ESPN! Go figure that we both have the deficiency. My gyne told me not to take calcium supplements, which I thought was pretty avant-garde of her!

    1. Bix Post author

      From what I’ve read, vitamin D levels occur through a complicated process. Good levels don’t necessarily occur when we get enough sun or when we eat enough (pill or food).

      Remember this?

      Lead author of the study, Dr. Autier:

      “Ageing and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence… reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.”

      Inflammation can reduce vitamin D levels. And inflammation can be so many things.. Atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, periodontal disease, leg wound.


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