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There are three main fallacies regularly found in thinking associated with taking vitamin and mineral supplements.
The first one is that if you take a large dose of a particular vitamin or mineral it will 'cure you'. People are looking to vitamin and mineral supplements to be 'magic pills'. They expect these pills will somehow undo all the damage that has sometimes taken decades to develop and that if you get the right pill or pills you won't have to do anything else to get well again.
There are some truly spectacular results that have been obtained when people correct a significant vitamin or mineral deficiency and for these people the vitamin or mineral supplement has provided what was necessary. On some occasions these people have been assisted by large doses of particular vitamins and minerals.
However, the development of a degenerative disease such as heart disease or arthritis, for example, will usually have taken many years and will probably be associated with many contributing causes. To isolate one factor out of the range of potential causes and say that it will 'fix' the problem is too simplistic (at least in most cases).
One of the reasons for saying that one thing will 'fix' something is to attempt to remove the necessity for changing other contributing factors such as diet, smoking, stress, weight, exercise and so forth. The one step 'fixer' is an easy answer but the problem was probably created by multiple factors.
Taking vitamin and mineral supplements will be an important step in any health improvement program but it needs to be seen as one of the steps to be taken and not the only step.
The second common fallacy is the idea that vitamin and mineral supplements should work quickly and directly on the problem - or otherwise this is evidence that they don't work. An example of this faulty thinking is an elderly lady who had osteoarthritis. It was suggested that she commence taking a vitamin and mineral supplement. She took the supplements for a week and then stopped taking them and reported that they "didn't do anything".
Vitamin and mineral supplements need to be taken over several months so the body is able to take up what is needed and begin to repair the damage that has occurred.
In most cases of established disease this is not a process that occurs rapidly and can take some months for improvements to be established.
The body will begin to take up the nutrients and use them as soon as they are available and it will seek to restore proper functioning. However, the years of damage and degeneration that have taken place in the absence of sufficient nutrients will only be healed as the body is able.
The body will use the nutrients to restore and heal in a number of ways, some of which might not be noticeable to us. For example, it will begin to restore the health of the cells in the body and then proceed to tissues and organs. Much healing will be taking place and we will not necessarily be aware of what is occurring.
It is necessary to provide the body with the nutrients contained in vitamin and mineral supplements for long periods so they are available to the body to both maintain functioning and to heal itself.
The third fallacy associated with vitamin and mineral supplementation is that every person is the same and therefore everyone needs the same amount of a particular vitamin or mineral.
However, there is a great deal of difference in the genetic make up and biochemistry of individuals. This means that each individual has the need for different amounts of a nutrient. There are some generalisations that can be made about the nutrients that all people require but these generalisations have their limitations.
For example, if two people do everything the same and have the same intake of nutrients they can develop different health problems. For one person their health problems can be associated with a deficiency of particular nutrients and the other person's health problems can be associated with a deficiency of different nutrients. This is because they need different amounts of particular nutrients. One size does not fit all when it comes to nutrients.
Exciting and promising research is being conducted by Australia's CSIRO (the national government's research organization) on genomics. This research aims to make it possible to optimize each individual's nutritional supplementation based on their particular genetically determined requirements. In the meantime it is best to take a broad-based, balanced multi-vitamin-and-mineral supplement, optimized for absorption. This will ensure all the bases are covered and will be quite sufficient for most people, most of the time.
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