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Do We Need Supplements?

Supplement Use May Induce Heart and Liver Damage 

Let’s talk about supplements. With the number of pills, powders and potions on the market, it can be tricky to decipher between health and hype. We’ve always promoted whole foods over supplements, and now there’s even more research showing supplements aren’t just unnecessary, they could be downright damaging. 

You might have seen recent headlines from a 2016 study linking calcium supplements to heart damage. Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study followed 2,742 people for ten years tracking calcium intake from food and supplements, and levels of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease risk.  

Though participants with the highest calcium intake (≥1453 mg) compared to the lowest intake (<434 mg) had 27% lower risk for CAC, calcium supplement use was actually linked with a 22% increased risk for CAC. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. In 2010 we reported on a study finding daily calcium pill takers were 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those taking a placebo. All this suggests loading up on calcium via supplements is no match for eating high-calcium foods such as white beans, tofu, collard greens and figs. 

A 2017 study grabbing media attention has to do with supplement use and liver damage. Authors of the study, which is published in the journal Hepatology, estimate that about 20% of all cases of drug-induced liver damage can be traced to herbal and dietary supplements. Though commercial weight-loss products, botanical mixtures and herbal teas were among the worst offenders, simple vitamin and mineral supplements accounted for 7% of the damage seen in the studied population.  

There are plenty of conditions and instances where supplement-use is warranted, but for most generally healthy people, healthy food is all you need. Nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, nuts and other whole foods are perfectly packaged by nature and can provide all the nutrition your body requires. 

For inspiration on how to deliciously include more fruits and vegetables foods into your diet, explore our recipe collection on!

Published February 1, 2017

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