By Jorge Rubal, CEO & Medical Director, Laguna Beach Community Clinic
With the pandemic upon us, how to best safeguard our health is on everyone’s mind. Should I be taking supplements is a question I hear more frequently from my patients. And, it’s not just my patients, when you’re a physician, your friends, family, and neighbors often seek your advice. I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to their concerns, especially when it comes to helping folks make informed decisions about their health during the pandemic. Laguna Beach is a community with a very health-oriented lifestyle, so I’m not surprised to hear an increased interest in adding supplements to one’s daily routine.
Half of all American adults, including 70 percent of those aged 65 and older, regularly take supplements. Supplements are a booming industry, taking in $12 billion per year. I suspect that number is on the rise in 2020 due to concerns over building a stronger immune system to ward off COVID-19. I’m sure you’ve seen all the ads on social media for products claiming to boost your immune system.
The common belief is that supplements provide a shortcut to better health or a kind of insurance to prevent disease. Actually, in an analysis of research involving 450,000 people, John Hopkins found that multivitamins did not reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer.
Back in January, the Laguna Beach Clinic hosted a symposium featuring several nationally renowned medical and scientific experts in Longevity. Dr. Mahtab Jafari, one of the symposium speakers and a leading expert in pharmaceutical sciences, counsels only to take those supplements needed as indicated by your blood work.
The greatest issue with supplements is that they are not regulated by the FDA. Harvard Medical School reports high doses of Beta Carotene have been linked to a greater risk of lung cancer in smokers, extra Calcium and Vitamin D may increase the risk of kidney stones, high doses of Vitamin E may lead to stroke caused by bleeding in the brain, and Vitamin K can interfere with the anti-clotting effects of blood thinners. Supplements, like medicines, can interact in harmful ways so be sure to talk to your physician about the types and amounts of supplements you are taking.
So how do we ensure that our bodies are getting the optimum nutrition level to support a healthy body and strong immune system? I suggest you start with a visit to our local farmers’ market. I’ve stopped by a few times myself; it’s a wonderful way to combine outdoor activity with shopping for foods to prepare healthy meals. There’s a lot of evidence-based information supporting the benefits of a healthy diet, so grab your shopping bag and load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, and a few lean meats too. If you are still concerned about your nutrition and immune system, before you hit the supplement aisle or try the latest health-enhancing pill or powder advertised on social media, please seek guidance from your physician on what’s right for your body.