Supplements: Big Scam or Big Help?

HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Be wise and discerning if you are on supplements or considering taking them. Think about what you’re putting in your body. Is there actual evidence for the claims? Is the substance helping you as it should, not from the placebo effect, but from true chemistry? Finally, can you get the same effect and help from food or by just letting the body get plenty of sleep and heal?

Whether to use supplements has long been debated in the world of medicine and health and wellness. Supplements are considerably different from medications in that many don’t have science and double-blind studies to support their efficacy. Medications are much more thoroughly documented, tested and studied.


The real question remains: How can you be sure supplements will help you and are worth taking? Fish oil, commonly available on many drugstore shelves, has been shown through studies to help with the heart. Vitamin D supplements are used for a sense of well-being, often combating issues such Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Most other supplements, however, don’t have clinical trials behind them and are often said to “suggest” a certain type of healing. The problem with “suggesting” something to the body is that it activates the placebo effect, and it becomes very murky to discern to how much of the substance is helping the issue and how much of it is the mind believing it helps.


Because of the very loose laws surrounding supplements, there are tons of charlatans in the supplements game. These include companies that cut costs by putting fillers in the bottles and dropping the actual substance, in some cases to as low as 10 percent. These companies don’t want the public to know fillers are present, so they are often left off the labels, which are not highly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the filler substances are harmful to the people innocently taking them. In some extreme cases, the

SUPPLEMENTS: BIG SCAM OR BIG HELP?

fillers even contraindicate prescription medications the buyer might be coincidentally taking.


An example of this was recently in the news. Magnesium sterate has been used as filler for some time. It has been found to be harmful to some people and at the very least is simply filler for what the buyers thought they were getting. Whether the FDA will clamp down on this and other potentially harmful materials remains to be seen.


How do you know if you’re getting a top-quality supplement? One of the best guides is available on Dr. Joseph Mercola’s Web site (www.mercola.com). The doctor highlights the following criteria for assessing a supplement:


CHARLES SEBASTIAN

Charles Sebastian is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

more articles by charles sebastian