Nutrient Myths

10 Common Myths about Nutrients

Myth #1: If you eat a healthy diet, you don’t need to take supplements.

This suggests that consuming a “healthy” diet is simple. However, very few of us can take the time to access all the vital nutrients we need, in correct proportions, all of the time. Many of us do not even come close to “healthy”. In fact, 42% of the average Canadian diet is derived from the “other foods” category, which are processed and lacking in nutrients. Also, only 50% of us eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables – even worse, the recommendation is actually between 7 and 10 servings.

It’s harder than you think to get all of your nutrients from food. Much of our food supply is over-handled and grown in soil barren of critical nutrients. Processed food (anything that comes in a package) is further stripped of its nutrients. In addition, we are exposed to countless pollutants and toxins through conventionally grown food with its heavy use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals.

Certain diseases, conditions, medication use, aging, and being vegetarian or vegan may also require supplemented doses of nutrients to achieve a level that supports healing processes.

To complicate matters further genetics change the way individuals process and utilize nutrients. Due to these differences in our genes, some of us require higher levels of specific nutrients to support vulnerable metabolic pathways in our bodies. Finally, due to specific medical conditions or just plain aging, our need for critical micronutrients can dramatically escalate.

So there are several reasons that you may need to supplement the nutrients in your diet, whether you eat a “healthy” diet or not.

Myth #2: Regular activity gives me enough sunshine for sufficient Vitamin D.

Most of us spend our days indoors working or watching TV. When we do go out, we often slather on sunscreen or cover our skin with clothing – both of which block our ability to make vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet B rays.

The angle of the sun is also important for vitamin D production, especially for Canadians. Our unprotected skin can only make vitamin D during the summer months between 10am and 3pm. We are not able to make vitamin D from the sun in the winter (from November to March in Toronto and October to April in Edmonton) because we are so far north.

Whether you live in sunny Florida or at a northern latitude, you are likely not be getting enough sunshine exposure to create vitamin D. Yet vitamin D is important for bone, breast, colon health, your immune system and more.

The only way to know your vitamin D status, and how much vitamin D you need to take, is to a have blood test that measures your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level.

There is a free App available at Dminder.com that was developed to provide guidance for when and how much vitamin D you can make through sun exposure. It also provides a warning when you’ve had enough sun exposure to avoid a sun burn.

Myth #3: I was told I only need to take 800 IU/d of vitamin D.

Unless you complete a blood test, you really don’t know how much vitamin D you need to take.  Most Canadians require 5,000 IU or more each day to reach and maintain optimal levels, which is a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level in the range of 100-150 nmol/L.

If you were to lay in the sun at noon during the summer in a bikini or shorts, you would make about as much vitamin D as if you were to take 15,000 IU/d and with half your body exposed it would approximate a dose of 5,000-7,000 IU/d.

Everyone has a different response to vitamin D supplements, mostly because of genetics, but also because of body weight. The amount of vitamin D you need to take may be 2-3 times higher than a slimmer individual if your BMI is over 30 (obese).

Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, you may also need to take more vitamin D if you have a malabsorption disorder such as Crohn’s disease or leaky gut. Endocrine disorders also may require additional vitamin D.

Myth #4: If supplements were so great, mainstream doctors would recommend them.

Medical schools teach from a disease paradigm.  Medical doctors (MDs) diagnose a disease and then treat the patient based on that diagnosis. This is part of the reason that our medical system is in favor of recommending pharmaceutical drugs.

MDs are not trained in nutrition or in prevention. The average MD gets only a few hours of education in nutrition during their degree and they certainly don’t learn much, if anything, about supplementation. Unless they have a special interest in this area they will likely not be making any recommendations for supplements. However, this does not mean you don’t need them.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs), on the other hand, are extensively trained in nutrition, prevention and appropriate supplementation.

Not to mention that, despite the fact that few doctors recommend supplements to their patients, surveys show that most doctors take supplements themselves and recommend them to their families—a clear double standard.

Myth #5: I don’t have a lot of added sugar in my diet.

Many of us believe that we don’t eat a lot of sugar. Unfortunately, if we are eating anything processed (prepared or packaged), we are eating a lot of added sugar we are not even aware of. A can of soda contains up to 40 grams of added sugar. A single packet of ketchup has 3 grams. Your favorite smoothie can have more than 60 grams!

Blood tests reveal the exposure to these hidden sugars (e.g., elevated triglycerides).

We can work to reduce added sugars from your diet. One tool is the app “One Sweet App” that you can use to measure and track the amount of added and natural sugars in your diet.

Myth #6: Supplements aren’t regulated.

For a nutritional supplement to be sold in Canada the company has to apply to Health Canada for a license to sell that product.

At the heart of this system is the Natural Product Number (NPN), an eight-digit number located on the product label. Found on all licensed natural health products for sale in Canada, this number means that the product has been assessed by Health Canada and deemed to be safe. Best of all, it’s completely traceable.

Myth #7: All brands of supplements are the same.

Not all supplements are created equal. Different companies have different standards and use different forms of vitamins.

For example, vitamin B12 comes in 3 forms: cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, and methylcobalamin. The most effective form for supplementation that is most efficiently absorbed by our bodies is methylcobablamin.

Myth #8: “Stop all your supplements!”

This is advice patients often hear from their doctors when they’re scheduled for surgery or being prepped for cancer chemotherapy or radiation. This irrational blanket statement is shorthand for “I haven’t done my homework on which vitamins and supplements are compatible with [surgery/chemotherapy/radiation], so just in case there might be a conflict, just stop taking everything.”

Unfortunately, this misinformed stance denies patients access to critical supplements at precisely the time they need them most—when they’re subject to the stress and immunosuppression associated with aggressive, invasive medical interventions.

In fact, there are some supplements that should be avoided depending on the circumstances (e.g., certain nutrients that could promote excessive bleeding in surgery, vitamins and botanicals that block chemotherapy, or antioxidants that may lessen radiation), but our NDs and NPs (who have done their homework!) can advise patients on which supplements to omit, and which to augment to counter side effects and bolster resistance.

Myth #9: My dentist says that dental amalgam is safe.

Mercury is one of the most toxic, non-radioactive substances on the planet. Dental amalgam is the largest single source of mercury exposure for average Canadians. Mercury vapour is released from amalgams and accumulates over time in the body. People with mercury amalgams have more mercury in their body and when amalgams are removed, mercury levels go down and symptoms improve.

Mercury toxicity contributes to a wide range of symptoms. These range from fatigue, memory loss, confusion, stomach problems, shakiness of hands, loss of sense of smell/taste, and poor co-ordination. The safe removal of mercury amalgam fillings helps to reduce these symptoms.

Myth #10: Low levels of exposure to heavy metals won’t hurt me.

We are exposed to several toxic metals in our environment, including mercury from fish and our dental amalgams, lead from air and soil contamination, and cadmium from tobacco smoke.  On top of that, we are also exposed to hundreds of man-made toxicants such as pesticides, herbicides, volatile compounds, solvents, and plastics.

Some of these metals and chemicals can persist in our bodies for years, accumulating, adding stress on our organ systems, and potentially causing harmful health effects.

Low-level exposure to some of these metals and chemicals has been linked to increased risk of kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, immune dysfunction, cognitive impairment and metal health concerns.

It is important to measure body burden (urinary toxic metals test), particularly if there is concern or history of exposure to these toxins.

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