Supplements and hot weather

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Does hot weather ruin your supplements?  These days it’s a question worth asking, especially if you order supplements online or leave your purchases sitting in a hot car.  I recently ordered some omega-3 supplements and then realized they could end up sitting outside in the heat, not a good way to treat fragile omega-3 fatty acids.  ConsumerLab.com (membership required) recently looked at the problem, and confirmed my thoughts about omega-3: heat is bad, although exposure to air is worse.  If your local grocery store has a cod liver oil section, it’s probably refrigerated, for good reason.  These types of bottled oils are high in omega-3 and definitely need to be kept refrigerated to prevent rancidity.

Mineral supplements come in mineral salt form, and as such are less susceptible to heat degradation.  Certain highly reactive vitamins, like A and C, can be degraded by heat.  While heat damage isn’t likely to make the supplements unhealthy, you might not get all the active vitamin you paid for.  Your best bet is to keep all supplements in a cool place, and keep omega-3 or other gel cap supplements in the refrigerator.  Plan your shopping trips so supplements are not left in a hot car.

Speaking of supplements, isn’t it better to just get nutrients from food?  After all, that’s what Mother Nature originally intended.  ConsumerLabs also addressed that question, giving the not-so-surprising answer that nutrients in natural form, in food, are likely better.  However, there’s little solid research evidence either way right now.  Some supplement versions of vitamins and minerals differ from the form found in foods.  In some cases, synthetic versions of vitamins appear to be better absorbed, as with folic acid.  On the other hand, recent research linking high dose vitamin E supplements to health risks focus on synthetic forms of this nutrient, not natural forms.

The problem with getting supplements from food?  In a sedentary society, people don’t need so many calories, and so don’t need to eat so much food.  Less food means less nutrients consumed.  While it’s technically possible to eat a perfect diet of only whole foods, in small portions and still get enough vitamins and minerals, in reality few people are doing that.  There would be no room for discretionary calories, like ice cream or a cookie or even honey in your yoghurt, and forget about alcoholic beverages or soft drinks.  Supplements can make up the difference.  Unfortunately some people think supplements make junky food choices OK.  Here’s what I’d like to see: supplements that were truly supplemental, with maybe 1/3 of daily recommended intake of vitamins and/or minerals.  Not 100%, not 1000%, not some random mixture of 100% and 10% in the same multiple vitamin pill.  Meanwhile, if you buy any kind of supplements, don’t leave the bottles in a hot car, or let your delivery packages sit outside on the front porch in the blazing sun.

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