Dr Geoff Mullan was interviewed along with Dr Melaney Angelova and Dr Anne Moore for the Daily Telegraph for their take on how to supplement your diet and stay healthy this Winter.
"From omega-3 to the new anti-ager causing a buzz, expert advice on which ones are really worth spending your money on."
If you have an account with the Daily Telegraph, you can read the full article using the link below (requires a paid subscription). For those of you that don't, we have taken some of the main points from the article. Link to full article
Don't have a subscription, we have made a summary of the main points:
The global supplement market is rapidly growing and is expected to reach $185.1 billion soon, partly due to the pandemic's influence. A UK survey showed a 19% increase in supplement users from 2019 to 2021, with a third attributing this to the pandemic.
While many see supplements as an easy health boost, especially during the New Year, experts like Professor Tim Spector and Dr Michael Gannon are sceptical. (Although, in Spector's case, we should take this with a pinch of salt as he has just released his own supplements)
However, some doctors recommend supplements, and the Government advises adults to consider Vitamin D supplements in the colder months. This raises the question: What supplements, if any, are truly beneficial for our health?
Do We Really Need to Take Supplements?
The necessity of supplements varies based on age, diet, health, and geographic location. Dr. Anna Moore highlights, “if you’re in Africa, you should get enough vitamin D from the sun. In the UK, in winter, you won’t.” A rich and varied diet is ideal, but achieving this consistently can be challenging due to factors like busy lifestyles, living alone, or mobility issues.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing certain vitamins. Dr. Geoffrey Mullan notes, “The nutritional markers of a 25-year-old will rarely show deficiencies in B12, folate, vitamin D and magnesium because at that age, body function is pretty good. As we get older, those deficiencies become far more likely. The diet may not have changed, but the body’s functioning has.”
Can Supplements Really Work?
Supplements can be effective with a targeted approach. Dr. Melaney Angelova emphasises the importance of understanding individual nutritional needs rather than randomly choosing multivitamins.
She warns, “Indiscriminate and excessive use of supplements without a clear understanding of your nutritional status can have adverse effects and lead to imbalances and potential health issues.”
For instance, excessive Vitamin A intake can increase the risk of bone fractures in older age. The best approach involves blood tests and specialist consultations to identify personal health needs. Dr. Moore asserts, “Of course, you can exist without supplements. People do. That’s not the point. The point is that you can have a longer, healthier life if you take them.”
What Are We Most Deficient In?
Omega-3 deficiency is widespread, according to Dr. Geoffrey Mullan, who states,
“Omega-3 is the most likely deficiency. We’ve run thousands of nutrition blood tests for omega-3 at our clinic, and 96 per cent have shown omega-3 is below optimal levels.” This is attributed to the reduced consumption of oily fish compared to our ancestors who lived near water bodies and relied heavily on fish.
Vitamin D deficiency is also common. Dr. Anna Moore points out, “Even in summer, many of us struggle to make enough vitamin D,” especially among certain groups like obese or dark-skinned individuals. Additionally, she notes that older people often lack sufficient B vitamins, particularly B12, due to decreased absorption capabilities with age.
Can Supplements Help with Losing Weight?
Supplements are not a replacement for diet and exercise in weight loss but can play a supportive role.
Dr. Geoffrey Mullan explains, “Weight is massively complex and depends on many factors – including our genes and how effective the body is at absorbing and storing fat.
Berberine, for example, reduces the absorption of fatty acids and has been found to stabilise blood sugars and reduce insulin resistance, which are both linked to weight gain.”
Supplements like berberine and psyllium husk can aid in reducing cholesterol, while omega-3 can decrease inflammation and free radicals. Omega-3 is particularly beneficial for overweight individuals, potentially aiding in obesity management.
Can You Take Supplements If You’re Pregnant?
Supplementation is essential during pregnancy for both the mother and baby's wellbeing. Dr. Melaney Angelova emphasises, “Supplementation during pregnancy is crucial for the wellbeing of both mother and baby.”
Key supplements include folic acid, which prevents neural tube defects, and fish oil, crucial for the baby's brain and eye development. Probiotics are also recommended for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. These supplements can be taken in powdered form mixed with water for optimal nutrient preservation and faster absorption.
The Supplements You Might Need
Experts recommend several key supplements for various health benefits:
Dr. Geoffrey Mullan advocates for omega-3, stating, “It’s an obvious win.” Essential for brain health, cell building, blood clotting regulation, and reducing heart disease and stroke risk, omega-3 is a crucial unsaturated fat mostly obtained from oily fish.
2. Vitamin D with K2 for Bones and Immunity:
Dr. Anna Moore emphasises the importance of vitamin D, which regulates calcium and phosphate, crucial for bones, teeth, and muscles. It's also vital for immune response and mood regulation. In the UK, sunlight exposure is insufficient for vitamin D synthesis for much of the year, making supplementation important. Combining vitamin D with K2 maximises calcium absorption.
3. B Vitamins to Combat Cognitive Decline:
Dr. Melaney Angelova highlights B vitamins (B6, B12, folate) for their role in energy conversion, skin health, and neurological function. They are essential in controlling homocysteine levels linked to cognitive decline and dementia. Absorption of B12 decreases with age, and it's scarce in vegetarian and vegan diets.
Magnesium, vital for muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and energy production, is often deficient due to reduced content in modern diets and food processing. Dr. Moore suggests, “If you’re suffering muscle cramps at night or poor sleep, or if you’re feeling more fatigue, that can be a magnesium deficiency and it’s always a good idea to supplement.”
NMN, a precursor for NAD+, is gaining attention for its potential anti-aging benefits. Dr. Mullan notes, “From our mid-20s, our levels of NAD naturally decline. By the time we reach middle age, they’re about 50 per cent of what they were.” NMN supplements may improve insulin sensitivity and energy production, though long-term safety data in humans is limited.