What If Your Cardiologist Doesn’t Believe In Supplements?

08/05/2022 | 4 min. read

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It would not surprise me if your doctor fundamentally has an aversion to supplements. Research study after study has shown that one-size-fits-all supplements are not beneficial for the masses, so doctors are often hesitant to recommend them.

For example, no longer does a multivitamin need to be on every shelf, as research has dispelled the need for them...for most people. See, as public health research goes, recommendations are made based on the overall population, but if you don’t quite fit into the box of that population, well then it might not be accurate that YOU don’t need supplements. Just as prevention is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, neither are supplements. We don’t ALL need the same things.

Of course, there are fundamental health needs we all have in common. We do all need a healthy diet, filled with nutrients and minerals. We all need to exercise and drink enough water. We all need restorative sleep. We all need sunshine, and relaxation, and the ability to take time to eat what is best for us. We all need a lot of things, that not all of us are getting all of the time.

That’s when supplements just might become important for you, to help fill those nutrient gaps. Plus, if you have specific health needs, targeted supplements may be very beneficial--you just want to ensure that the nutrients you take are tailored to those needs.

Why Don’t More Doctors Prescribe Supplements?

When it comes to treating patients, many physicians stay away from supplements, which is not entirely surprising because the research on nutritional supplements is riddled with confusion.

Vitamin D is a good example.

A recent trial looked at the role of vitamin D in the prevention of osteoporosis. The study involved 25,871 participants, men aged 50 and older and women 55 and older, who were given 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day or a placebo. Those who took vitamin D had no decrease in osteoporosis or fractures.

It is a compelling study, but didn’t specifically include people who had a decrease in bone density, nor did it monitor vitamin D levels. In that same trial, vitamin D and omega 3’s were looked at in terms of the prevention of cardiovascular disease. It also showed that supplementation was not helpful in the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and dispelled the recommendations that either supplement should be used.

On the other hand, a large study done in Britain, published in the European Heart Journal, showed that higher vitamin D levels are associated with lower cardiovascular risk. They looked at almost 300,000 people and found that people with a vitamin D level of 25 nmol/l had an 11% increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with levels at 50 nmol/l, and those with levels at 75nmol/l had a 2% decrease compared to those with levels at 50 nmol/l.

Along these lines, multiple trials have shown the significant benefits of cardiovascular prevention using omega-3 fatty acids. In a large meta-analysis including 13 randomized-controlled trials, there was a decrease in myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and cardiovascular disease.

This is just a window into the controversy and competing thoughts.

Quality Is Another Issue

I will tell you this. Your doctor took an oath when graduating from medical school. The “Hippocratic Oath” says, “First, do no harm.” With so many supplement companies showing a lack of quality and fillers with substances that are possibly dangerous for ingestion, and a lack of regulation regarding quantity and quality, part of the pushback is that your doctor is not sure what is best for you, and doesn’t, primarily, want to harm you.

Plus, it’s important to remember that levels of vitamins can be checked in your bloodstream to determine if, in fact, you do need supplementation—which is something your physician shouldn’t ignore. And follow-up blood tests can be done to see when you reach the adequate level, and the dose can be tailored individually to you.

So, instead of speculating on whether you are absorbing properly, or out in the sun enough, or consuming all the nutrients and vitamins you need, a simple blood test can give you concrete answers.

When you do need a supplement, don’t reach for the cheapest and easiest vitamin to find. Instead, find a responsible manufacturer with pure ingredients, and stay with it.

You can also help educate your doctor by going to the Office of Dietary Supplements through the National Institutes of Health and finding more information.

Ultimately, your doctor is your partner in your healthcare journey, and the role of supplements in your life is a conversation worth having with your healthcare practitioner. If the answer is a “no” without an analysis of you as an individual, then maybe you need to find someone else to talk to. More supplements are not necessarily better, but those supplements that are right for you can ultimately help save your life.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Guest Contributor

Meet Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Guest Contributor

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is an integrative cardiologist and author who has devoted her career to the treatment of heart disease through early detection, education, and prevention — especially in women.