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In an ideal world, everyone would get all the essential nutrients from food. However, that’s wishful thinking; especially for men. According to the recent statistics, men aged 31 to 50 need to eat 150% more fruit and 350% more dark green vegetables per day in order to meet dietary guidelines. In fact, men have deficits in nearly every nutritional category, except meat and beans. In this week’s article find out why certain supplements would particularly benefit men’s health…

To Supplement or Not to Supplement

Would a single pill every day be enough? Truth is, it’s not that simple. According to 10 years of evaluation about the potential health benefits of four of the most popular vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and multivitamins, these individual supplements taken separately don’t seem to have health benefits. For example, according to studies, neither vitamin E or C lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer. However, other studies have been more positive. For example, beta carotene supplements might have brain benefits if taken regularly over many years. Beta carotene, taken along with vitamins C and E and zinc, might also slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which is a cause of blindness.

So, where does that leave us? The key is to look at all the evidence in order to come up with recommendations. Of course, there’s still plenty of evidence to be gathered.

Multiple Choice for Men

One possible reason that individual supplements don’t seem to benefit health – and why food sources are widely held to be superior to supplements – is because their benefits may depend on the interactions of a particular food’s components. In other words, the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts. If we take strawberries as an example, which are a rich source of vitamin C and other nutrients, the challenge would be to perfectly replicate it into a pill. Only then would that supplement be as beneficial as consuming the actual fruit. This is the reason why multivitamins might prove to be one way to gain the advantages of some of the complex interactions found in food sources.

Most Nutritionists would recommend a daily multivitamin to the majority of their clients. However, people need to change their expectations of what a multivitamin can do. Keep in mind that they are supplements, not replacements. The dietetic mantra remains ‘get your nutrition from food.
There are numerous multivitamins specially formulated for men, which means they contain little to no iron. Most men get enough iron and the body doesn’t have a good way of removing excess iron. In addition to a multivitamin, men should consider supplementing their vitamin D and calcium intake to maintain bone health. It’s a misperception that osteoporosis is only a women’s issue and a large percentage of men have low vitamin D and calcium daily intake from food. But remember that each man’s needs are different depending on many factors, so you should consult a Nutritionist to determine what’s best for you.

Negative side effects?

Whatever health benefits supplements may have, you still need to be careful about the amount you take. Contrary to popular belief, more does not mean better! In fact, taking too much of some vitamins can cause serious problems. Although this is rarely a problem from food, supplements make it easier to consume excess amounts without realising it. For example, an excess of vitamin A, can seriously damage the liver. So, once again, moderation is the key!

Food for Thought

Despite the debate, nearly a third of people in the UK take some vitamin, mineral or dietary supplement on most days, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The promise of supplements is to reduce the risk of disease and maintain health and wellness. But a good diet should take a “food-first approach”.

By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist

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