Pills: To Pop or Not To Pop?

Despite the constant advertisements by the media recommending the use of supplements, it is often better to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Beauty and fitness magazines alike have recommended time and time again that young women take a myriad of different supplements. Due in part to the prevalence of such recommendations, the U.S. supplement industry has grown to be worth billions. But does popping an eclectic collection of supplements actually do the body any good? Below is an analysis of the most commonly recommended and popular supplements:

Vitamin D
Long hailed for its aid in maintaining bone structure, boosting immunity and preventing cancer, it is a sad fact that over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient. Olivia Basile, a Drama major at Tisch, is a victim of this problem. To combat it, she takes vitamin D supplements and claims to feel better when she does, although she admits that she cannot be sure whether this is due to the placebo effect. Another NYU drama major, Patricia Roques, explains that she takes vitamin D supplements as a precautionary measure to prevent sickness, and claims that they have been very helpful thus far.

Is it worth popping?
Although vitamin D supplementation is beneficial, a majority of the benefits are actually related to bone health, not necessarily preventing sickness or cancer. In fact, intentionally ingesting extra vitamin D can cause more harm than good. Taking too much vitamin D can cause calcification in the urine, which can lead to kidney stones. In addition, very high doses can lead to vitamin D toxicity and the development of heart-attack-inducing blood clots. Research is still being conducted, but for now the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for men and women under the age of 70 is 600 International Units (or 15 micrograms) per day, as established by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board.

Iron
Iron is essential to the function of the human body because it is a key component of hemoglobin and myoglobin — proteins that transfer oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia, which causes an overall deterioration of the body and can lead to pregnancy complications, heart problems and even death. Iron deficiency occurs with blood loss and especially affects menstruating women. Iron is also said to fight hair loss and give your skin a healthy glow.

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Is it worth popping?
Iron toxicity is possible and can cause digestive problems and organ failure. Therefore, the FNB has established that adults should not ingest more than 45 milligrams of iron each day.

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
Approved by the FDA to lower the body’s triglycerides, fish oil is most often used to aid heart and blood conditions. Women’s Health Magazine even goes as far as to claim that it can help slow the body’s aging process. Omega-3 supplements are said to help aid in the health of pregnant women and the development of the fetus. Omega-3 is also supposed to support good eyesight, brain health and the immune system, although these claims have yet to be concretely proven.

Is it worth popping?
The most popular natural product of the United States is unfortunately not a cure-all to your health problems. However, it is recommended by many for its benefits in supporting heart health and, according to some professionals, mental health as well.

The verdict:
Overall, supplements are not necessary. Dr. Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, feels that supplements are simply redundant.

“I’m guessing that most students at NYU are pretty healthy and would do much better eating real food than taking supplements,” said Nestle. “Supplements don’t make healthy people healthier.”

Unless it is required by medical condition, avoid supplements and get your additional vitamin D from a soak under the sun, perhaps surrounded by the cultural richness of Washington Square Park. For your iron, have a steak or treat yourself to oysters! Vegetarian? Chow down on some broccoli or spinach. Get your fatty acids from a filet of salmon or munch on some walnuts. Pick up some fresh fruit from the Union Square Greenmarket. If health is your ultimate goal, focus on de-stressing and worship the temple that is your body by feeding it real food, not supplements.

Email Valerina Young at [email protected]

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