Can Dietary Supplements Lower Health Care Costs?
An interesting 2014 study by the Journal of Dietary Supplements found a direct connection between the use of specific supplements and a reduction in expensive hospitalizations. With the cost and design of health care on everyone’s mind, the findings’ relevance is only increasing with time.
The report, entitled “Smart Prevention – Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Supplements,” looked specifically at older adults diagnosed with heart disease, and the difference preventative medicine could make in the long-term financial burden.
The findings suggested that over 2 billion dollars could be saved annually if those at risk for heart disease used a supplement regimen.
But What Does That Mean For Me?
How does this study translate to all of us right now, as we juggle the needs of work, home, and family? What can we apply from their conclusions that will make a difference today, as well as in the future?
We’ll find the answer by better understanding how our bodies work, and which daily dietary supplements contribute to short and long-term health.
The human body is intricately designed: performing a simple balancing act of consistently taking good elements in and getting toxins out. The two supplements examined in the above study, B vitamins and omega-3s, are essential to this exchange process.
However, many of us are not getting the right amount to fully enjoy what our bodies’ potential.
As we unlock that potential, we will become healthier and spend less in our efforts to stay that way. So, let’s take a closer look at these two families of nutrients used in the study:
Essential Supplement #1: B Complex Vitamins
There are eight vitamins within the “B” group, some with familiar names like niacin, riboflavin, and biotin. Others have tongue-twisting monikers no one wants to take the time to pronounce, so they get a number; B12 is one example. A “B complex” supplement contains all eight variations of B vitamins, and we definitely want each one of them in there!
Just like the A-Team wasn’t the same if someone was missing, the B-Team functions best when all members are present. Together they work in concert, helping empower your body against a whole host of issues, ranging from anxiety and depression to heart disease and cognitive decline.
Dr. Cathy Wong, ND, in her excellent article The Benefits of B Complex Vitamins, gives a detailed description of each B vitamin along with a full list of their proven as well as suspected benefits.
The challenge with B vitamins is that our bodies cannot store most of them, and so they need replenished on a regular basis if we are to avoid the ebb and flow of inconsistent levels.
Next, there’s a second group of nutrients just as crucial and equally in need of regular replacement.
Essential Supplement #2: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s likely you’ve heard that fish, especially wild-caught salmon, contributes to a healthy diet. The primary reason is the quantity of omega-3 fatty acids it contains. If B vitamins are a power boost to our body’s “engine,” then omega-3s provide the lubrication that allows all the moving parts to function smoothly.
The omega-3 family is a bit smaller, with (you guessed it) just three members. They also have tongue-twisting names so they go by ALA, EPA, and DHA. When our body uses omega-3s, it takes the ALA version and converts it into EPA and DHA, so most supplements focus on the last two.
All of the research on omega-3 fatty acids over the years (and there aren’t many nutrients that have been examined more so) suggests they have an equally powerful effect on the same wide range of issues that B vitamins address. The Mayo Clinic provides an extensive summary of the current opinion.
Think of B complex vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids as opposite sides of the same nutritional coin, working in tandem to address similar health challenges; neither one is quite as effective without the other.
What is the Best Way to Supplement?
Ideally, we would get these nutrients through diet alone, but time and budget constraints make it difficult for most of us to sustain the levels we need. This is where supplements play a key part, but they should not be thought of as a magic pill or a replacement for healthy living. Rather, consider them a support or “gap-fill” solution for when diet comes up short.
In addition, it’s not only important to get these supplements on a daily basis; it’s just as crucial to take them in the best possible form. Many vitamin manufacturers use preservatives and dyes to extend shelf life and make their product more attractive. This means your body has a harder time getting to the nutrients inside, and absorbs counter-productive ingredients while it does.
This is why I’ve created our line of Diamond Nutritionals as the supplement provider for myself, my family, and my patients. Foundation Vitamin Formula contains no dyes or preservatives, and is carefully formulated to provide the optimum blend of nutrients, including the crucial full spectrum of “B complex.” My family and I take three of these once a day, as do most of my patients.
We have also created a potent blend of omega-3s with the same approach in the Balanced Omega Formula. My family and I take four of these once a day, as do the majority of my patients.
But Don’t Go It Alone
If you believe you could benefit from the addition of B vitamins and omega-3s to your diet, please don’t start a supplement regimen without involving your integrative/functional medicine physician. There are too many variables to consider and dosage amounts possible to just dive in. Carefully weigh the options and create a plan.
Taken together correctly, these two building blocks of long-term health are powerful tools to get healthy and stay healthy.
I’ve seen them work time and again for my patients, and my own family. There is no doubt in my mind that you will save time, money, and energy by taking advantage of what they have to offer. If you need assistance, I am here to help you discover a long-term path to better health!
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