Think health supplements are a waste of money? Think again

As a community pharmacist for several years, serving hundreds of customers every working day, one of the questions I get asked most often is:

“Do I really need to take supplements?”

My answer is always a resounding “YES”

and I will tell you why in this post.


Inadequate diet nutrient intake

Inadequate diet nutrient intake : berries on wooden rustic background

We get most of the essential vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables, but do you know how much you should actually take per day?

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) actually recommends that women need to take 2.5 cups of vegetables and 1.5 cups of fruit daily; for men, it is recommended that we take 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit every day.

USDA recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake: redcurrants in white rustic cup

Note: if you want to learn more about USDA recommendations, and what counts as 1 cup of vegetables/fruit, visit this link (for veges) and this link (for fruits)

This may sound very doable, until you really break it down. To meet the USDA recommendation, a man needs to have 1 large banana for breakfast , 2 cups of raw vegetable salad for lunch (1 cup vege), a small apple or 32 seedless grapes for snack, and 1 cup of brocolli plus 12 baby carrots for dinner.

Realistically, how many of us eat like this?


Nutritional decline of food

Nutritional decline in food : vege on fork nutrients?

Ok, say if you are one of the few that meets the USDA recommendation, and take enough veges and fruits everyday, are you sure you are getting enough nutrients?

The answer is “maybe not”

Let me tell you something that might alarm you. (or not).

Did you know that the nutritional content of fruits that we eat today are significantly different from fruits from hundred years ago?

lower nutrient contents absorbed compared to hundred years ago


Dr Donald R. Davis is a research scientist who published a few studies about the decline in nutrient concentration in fruits and vegetables. According to him, some of the nutrients(including vitaimins, minerals, and even protein content) in vegetables or perhaps some fruits are 40% lower compared to years ago.(1)

Poor soil quality

poor soil quality

Quality of our soil is also an important factor to consider if you think you can get all your nutrients from healthy diet.

A plant is only as nutritious as the soil it was grown in.

The unfortunate truth is that the nutrient content of our soil has been steadily declining for decades.

The wide use of fertilizers (made from petroleum) helps to improve crops growth, but as pointed out by Dr Donald R.Davis, nutritional value of crops is inversely related to yield (1). The faster they grow, the less nutritious they become.

The use of synthetic fertilizers also degrades the soil by hastening the degradation of organic matter. This in turn affects the ability of soil to store nitrogen, which is crucial for soil productivity. And guess what, when soil productivity goes down, we add more fertilizers to it – it becomes a viscious cycle, destroying the organic matter in our soil.

Bottom line is,

With declined nutritional values of fruits and vegetables, grown from nutrient-depleted soil, can we afford to get all our nutrient needs just from food?

Food nutritional quality

Food nutritional quality : traffic congestion

We are now living in a fast-paced world.

If you are working in KL, chances are you are probably working 9 hours a day. If you take into account the time you take to travel to and from work, it’s around the mark of 11 hours a day.

This makes most of us almost impossible to cook – and that means fast take-away food for most of us.

The thing with take-away foods is not only we can’t get enough nutrients from them, we are exposed to several harmful substances in these take-away foods.

A few of these harmful substances are:


Trans fat - burgers in focus

Used extensively in fast food industry such as McDona**s to turn liquid oil to solid oil. They help preserve foods, keeping them from going bad. Trans-fat raises our cholesterol levels and increases our chance of heart disease and diabetes and brings zero benefit to our bodies.

The recommended daily intake of trans-fat is – ZERO! Kosong, ling, shoonya, none, nought, nil! But if you look closely around, they are everywhere!

One interesting fact: Processed foods are regulated by law that they have to disclose how much trans-fat they contain. But as long as the trans-fat content is less than 0.5 gram, legally they can be labelled as zero trans-fat.


Artificial preservative, colouring and flavouring agent

Coloring in food

These things are found everywhere too in your take away food, and some of them are really dangerous.

For example, Sodium Nitrite used in processed meats to preserve fats – is carcinogenic (increases your chance of getting cancer) (2). Aspartame, a very common artificial sweetener, could damage your brain, increase the risk of cancer and is associated with increased risk of lymphoma and leukemia (by up to 102%) (3,4).


Hormones and antibiotics

Let’s not talk about processed foods for a while, we all know that they are bad.

What about that chicken in that chicken rice stall? It’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s real food right?

hormones and antibiotics - ayam berempah rice

Unfortunately, you are still exposed unnecessarily to all the added hormones and antibiotics in the chicken. Poultries and meats these days are all pumped with hormones to make them grow faster. Antibiotics are also widely used to prevent infections of the animals.



What if I’m a vegetarian, you asked?

I have just one word for you: Pesticides.

pesticides : farmer spraying pesticides in the field

Vegetables today are mostly treated with pesticides. They are meant for the insects, not for human. If you eat out a lot, then chances are you will be exposed to extra pesticides – how thorough do you think they clean that vege out there?

Why should you start taking health supplements?

Why should you start taking health supplement : vitamin c, vitamin b, glucosamine, fish oil, probiotics

You get it now, right?

Maybe a hundred years ago, we never needed to take anything extra to stay healthy.

But look at us now,

We are so busy with life that we can’t even meet the basic nutrition demand. Even if we can, the nutritional content in fruits and vegetables are much less than before.

Additionally, we are exposed to unnecessary toxins in take-away foods every day. Don’t forget the stress levels are much higher now, and the air is now much more polluted. Our bodies need extra nutrients to help clear out these unwanted substances.

The most effective way to combat these problems, is through the use of health supplements. Period.

So, what do you think? Will you start taking health supplements now? Tell us which health supplement(s) you are using right now in the comment section below.




  1. Davis, Donald R. “Declining fruit and vegetable nutrient composition: What is the evidence?.” HortScience 44.1 (2009): 15-19.
  2. Mirvish, Sidney S., et al. “Study of the carcinogenicity of large doses of dimethylnitramine, N-nitroso-L-proline, and sodium nitrite administered in drinking water to rats.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 64.6 (1980): 1435-1442.
  3. Soffritti, Morando, et al. “First experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Sprague-Dawley rats.” Environmental Health Perspectives (2006): 379-385.
  4. Schernhammer, Eva S., et al. “Consumption of artificial sweetener–and sugar-containing soda and risk of lymphoma and leukemia in men and women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 96.6 (2012): 1419-1428.



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