May 15, 2014

Book Review and Give-Away! The Supplement Pyramid

As supplementation continues on as a booming business wrought with controversy, Dr. Michael Smith MD’s book with Sara Lovelady, TheSupplement Pyramid, comes at a convenient and necessary time. 


From my experience, clients are overwhelmingly interested in more natural remedies for their health, but mega-dosing blindly and inappropriately can be dangerous.  A lot of folks selling supplements have no related education at all or are not licensed to practice in the health care field; beware the person selling you supplements or other products, claiming to be curative or other potential falsehoods.  The quality of many supplement brands is suspect and difficult to know who to trust.  It is time for a book discussing quality, individualization, and lifestyle factors that address how to supplement appropriately and safely.

Any good discussion about supplementation must have a foundation in quality and regulation. Dr. Smith won my confidence in his third chapter “Choosing High-Quality Supplements” where he thoroughly reviews the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 and sets guidelines for contacting and evaluating the quality of supplement companies. I agree with his suggestion that identity, purity, strength and composition of any supplement verified by GMP compliance and third party certification is an absolute must when choosing supplements.  Yes they’ll be more expensive but believe me (and Dr. Smith) – supplements are not a place to scrimp on quality.  As he explains in his book: 

If you were to judge people’s purchasing behavior, you would conclude that cars and cell phones are more important than health. We have no problem investigating those two things thoroughly before making a purchase. Yet we’re reticent to do the same with supplements.  Value your health by treating your supplement purchases with just as much-if not more-importance.

Telling a dietitian that you can’t get all the nutrients required from food can make us prickle as this is generally the foundation of our practice.  However, from working in oncology I do understand that certain chronic and acute conditions render supplementation a critical piece of treatment.  Dr. Smith does discuss some of the reasons for baseline supplementation including the general unhealthy diet of most Americans, poor soil quality, damaging food additives and preservatives in many products we consume, unavoidable environmental toxins and chronic stress. 

Dr. Smith offers pages of quizzes to assess potential need for supplement intervention based on a person’s family and individual health history. He again pleased this RD by listing “Lifestyle Suggestions” first, then potential supplement recommendations.  Following the quiz section, he presents a chapter of case studies to highlight how different types of individuals can incorporate and prioritize supplements. I believe each case study could benefit much more from lifestyle intervention rather than supplements alone, but of course this is a book about supplements, so I understand the presentation of the information here and think that many people will find these concrete examples helpful. 

The appendix in The Supplement Pyramid is very complete – the recommended supplement companies, and list of common compounds including average dose and full description of potential health benefits are both reasons in themselves to read this book.  Consumers will find this information helpful; I constantly am asked about which brands I recommend so I’m glad that he presents brands people can trust.  I appreciate Dr. Smith’s thoroughness, moderate approach and obvious mastery of the subject of supplementation.  As questions come up about supplement safety, appropriateness, and dosing, I find myself suggesting The Supplement Pyramid as a reliable source of information patients can trust.  


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