SS 184 – Greens Powders and Multivitamins
Episode 184 Show Notes
Grant and Heavey take a question from one of the podcast listeners, Billy G., as they try to explore the popular yet under regulated world of vitamin supplementation, which also includes the use of greens powder. You’re probably spending a lot on your vitamins and minerals (which half of Americans do), but are you really getting what you think you’re getting? Are these companies really what they claim to be?
[02:00] Does Fish Oil Work?
Grant presents this study, released on The Journal of American College of Cardiology where they looked at 150 different, randomized clinical trials published between 2012 and 2017. They specifically looked at 15 different vitamin and mineral supplements including multivitamins and fish oil.
The study found that the reduction of risk dying prematurely from cardiovascular health issues is zero risk reduction. So according to the study, taking any of these products didn’t seem to move the needle at all. The lead author, David Jenkins, a professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, said they were surprised at finding so few positive effects of the supplements people consumed. Although the use of these supplements does no harm, they show no apparent advantage either. However, they found noticeable risk of early death from trials of Vitamin B3 and combined supplements containing two or more antioxidants such as Vitamin A, E, B, Carotene, Selenium, and Zinc.
So at the end of the day, these things might be doing more harm than good. Surprisingly, 50% of Americans take these vitamins.
Heavey goes on to say what’s challenging with meta- analysis is controlling for circumstances since people have different situations. Some may benefit from taking fish oil while others don’t. Some studies may use cod liver oil, while others use other fish oil. Some may have gone rancid and other studies may be not. So it’s hard to pull information together and see trends when something so complex as nutrition and our body’s response to it.
[07:15] Suicide is the 10th Leading Cause of Death: Holy Moly!
Moreover, Grant brings up this interesting statistics where the tenth leading cause of death in the United States today is suicide. This is really a very interesting topic as to what is driving people to take this action. One of the pillars of health discussed on this show is social interaction. It’s critical to have people around you for support and to help you through the good AND the bad.
[08:40] Question from Billy G.
Back to the main topic this week, listener Billy G. is asking about any benefit or any negative consequences of taking a multivitamin. He has been taking a powder once a day as a way to get some added nutrients. So he’s curious whether this is a waste of money or if it’s really helpful. He’s using Patriot Power Greens, which is actually described on their website as a delicious green drink that gives you 20 fruits and vegetables, 10 probiotics, and 6 digestive enzymes in a single serving. Mix one scoop of it with water, juice, or smoothie, and it claims to boost your energy and fight fatigue. All this for $50.
[10:47] A Major Flaw in the Supplement Industry
Heavey points out that when we talk about nutritional supplements, their claims don’t have to be validated by anything. A lot of times, you’ll see them hold up a study that doesn’t necessarily have relevance to their product. For example: they say eating 6 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday improves cognition by 10%. So they conclude their product improves cognition. But there’s no real study or requirement that this company test their products to demonstrate they meet the claims on their package. Heavey says this is one of the major flaws the way the supplement industry works in the US.
Additionally, the website sells four products – the green supplement, a digestive support supplement, packaged meals, and a solar powered generator (isn’t that strange?).
So back to the greens powder, their ingredients include beet juice, apple powder, kale, enzyme blend, etc. Although Billy asked about multivitamins and the product is a powdered supplement, Heavey classifies this product as two separate products.
[14:10] Multivitamins versus Greens Powder
Multivitamins are typically chemically isolated or synthetic forms of different nutrients packaged up in pill form usually. While the greens powder is usually reduced form of fruits and vegetables. They’re usually both taken for similar reasons which is to cover your nutritional bases.
From the ingredients perspective, Heavey thinks it’s fine as it’s just a bunch of fruits and vegetables reduced down into powder. One of the challenges while looking at their label though is they didn’t provide much insight into the nutritional content.
On the label, the only micronutrients they showed are Vitamin A and Iron. This is strange for a company that sells a greens product whose objective is to get all the vitamins and minerals people may not be getting since they’re not enough fruits and vegetables in their diet. Comparing this to other greens products, most of them have a much more extensive label on them that shows what you’re getting.
[15:55] Check the Label
If you’re going to pick a supplement like this, go for the one that puts as much information on there as possible. But just because they have their information on there doesn’t mean it’s a trustworthy brand but it also probably means that they’ve had more extensive testing done on their product. Being able to break that stuff out, means there’s higher probability they’ve had it tested at least for that. That way, we have a better idea of what’s going on. Additionally, this may suggest they have better quality control.
[17:30] What’s “Healthy” Now Might Be “Unhealthy” in the Future (or Vice Versa)
As for Heavey, he tries to get as much of his nutrition as he can through food. The reason being is that food contains plenty of bioactive compounds that may not exist in these reduced vitamin or powder forms. He adds how people often think we’ve got it all figured out to exact science, when that’s far from the truth. The study mentioned above illuminates that. For example, not long ago, butter was seen as “unhealthy”, now it’s not as demonified. It’s all about an evolving understanding on nutrition. Grant makes sense when he says what now is going to be “margarine” in a few years.
Grant gives another example of the use between reusable bags or disposable bags as to which is more eco-friendly. And everyone thinks reusable bags. But factoring in all of the life cycle of that bag, you’d have to reuse bags 7,000 times in your life to make it more ecologically friendly than the disposable ones. So maybe we’re doing more harm than good. To add to this, one of the things that makes the bags even worse is they’re made of organic cotton, which takes ten times the resources to grow. And this means more pesticides than the ones that are GMO.
[20:25] Science is Evolving and Calcium Supplementation
Science is evolving with new information out daily. For instance, Heavey previously recommended BCAAs to Grant and now- not so much!
So back to this multivitamin conversation, for example, people don’t fully understand the idea behind calcium supplementation. People, especially women, take it as they age to prevent fractured or brittle bones. However, there are numerous studies that show that calcium supplementation doesn’t appear to reduce bone fracture rates at all. And in some of the studies, it actually increased them. It has also been shown to increase your risk for cardiovascular issues. If you add in other vitamins, those help the body better regulate calcium in circulation and prevent the bad stuff from happening.
Heavey explains this inter-relationship with nutrients in our body chemistry. Some of which we understand today, but many of which we don’t. So if you’re just going to take calcium for bone health, that’s still a very reductionist approach to nutrition.
This is part of the reason Heavey tends to gravitate away from shotgun approach nutrition products because there can be issues with things like calcium and iron. Too little iron is bad for you and so is too much iron.
[23:25] Be Careful What You Take
Most of the time people are buying super cheap vitamins. The reason being is that the manufacturers are using really cheap ingredients that may be harmful to you. Beta Carotene for instance is a precursor for Vitamin A. A lot of time, people take Beta Carotene when they want to get Vitamin A…but it can also be converted into a very harmful substance that can even interfere with your Vitamin A metabolism.
Some evidence also shows that beta carotene supplementation can increase your risk for heart disease or cancer. So you have to be really careful with the supplements you take. We don’t even understand the manufacturing process for most manufacturers. Another study found that liver injury caused by bodybuilding supplements have increased over the last decade, rising from 2% registered cases of liver injury in 2004, to 8% in 2010. Additionally, the resulting liver transplants or death were due to mixing different supplements.
People have this mindset around supplements that they’re benign because they’re sold over the counter. But there are some gnarly things going on and you could kill yourself taking dietary supplements. So just be aware of that.
Heavey’s approach is being very targeted about what he takes because as scientific community, we don’t fully understand what’s happening.
[25:50] Are Greens Mixes Safe?
Heavey thinks they’re okay although he’d still prefer that people get their fruits and vegetables in throughout the day. But it also depends on your situation. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have access to fruits and vegetables, this is a great circumstance that the greens mixes get in. Make sure you’re continuing that complete nutrition as best you can.
[27:10] Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help break down the food during digestion. And the reason people make the argument that eating raw foods is the way to go is they haven’t removed digestive enzymes through cooking. Another example is raw milk, where people who say they’re lactose intolerant could actually drink raw milk with no problems because it contains these enzymes that haven’t been removed through pasteurization. Hence, digestive enzymes support the digestion of these fruits and vegetables.
While some people benefit from digestive enzymes, some benefit from probiotics, but the research is still pretty sketchy. Personally, Heavey takes probiotics and sees the value in them. But he doesn’t stick with one product. He tries to circulate them through and get more into these fermented foods.
[29:44] Their Verdict on the Greens Powder
Heavey reveals that having scant details on the website, it was hard to get appreciation for who these people were, what the process was, etc. So personally, he’s not giving a Strength and Scotch endorsement to Patriot Power products. (But he’s willing to try a solar power generator if they’d send him one. 🙂
On a serious note, take a look and find a brand that you can trust. Companies like Labdoor do independent testing of supplements. Find some reputable companies out there that are putting things out that have been tested, free of contaminants, and contain what they actually say they have in them.
Moreover, develop some trust and relationship with the brands or the products you use considering there’s limited regulation on supplements.
[31:03] The Negative Effects of Taking the Greens Powder
Heavey explains the negative stuff you might possibly get is usually from the synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals. That said, there are cases of people overdoing it with the green supplements and getting very sick from them. Again, it all comes down to the manufacturing of it.
[32:00] Is It a Waste of Money?
Grant points out that at the end of the day, it seems there’s not an awful lot of upside here. Again, there’s an upside to taking a product like this, especially if you’re not eating fruits and vegetables for whatever reason. Again, based on what he has seen on the product and its website, Heavey suggests you might want to move to a different brand.
[32:30] Who Could Benefit from Supplementation?
Heavey illustrates that there are other people out there that could benefit from similar types of supplementation such as those who exclude entire food groups. An example would be the vegetarians and vegan where they’re avoiding classes of food. In doing so, they’re missing out on a big set of nutrients. So avoiding any food is a recipe for some sort of malnutrition. The best advice you can get is to just eat a diverse set of foods.
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