Supplement Mania!

Ever hear of "polypharmacy"? That's when someone takes too many medicines. People will have lists of 15-20 prescription medicines, for instance, with crazy interactions and oodles of side-effects.

Well, how about "poly-supplments"? That's when someone takes a large number of nutritional supplements.

Let me tell you about a 45 year old man I met.

In an effort to rid himself of risk for heart disease that he felt was likely shared with his family (brother and father diagnosed with heart attacks in their late 40s), Steve followed a program of nutritional supplementation. You name it, he took it: hawthorne, anti-oxidant mixtures, vitamins C, E, B-complex, saw palmetto, 7-keto DHEA, velvet deer antler, gingko biloba, policosanol, chronium picolinate, green tea, pine bark extract, St. John's Wort, CoEnzyme Q10, papain and other digestive enzymes...He became a distributor for a nutritional supplement company to allow him to afford his own extraordinary program.

To satisfy himself that he had indeed "cured" himself of heart disease, he got himself a CT heart scan. His score: 470, in th 99th percentile. Steve's heart attack risk based on this score was around 10% per year. High risk, no question.

For weeks after his scan, Steve admitted walking around in a daze, not knowing what to do. Years of telling himself that he had effectively dealt with his heart disease risk, now all down the drain.

When we met, I persuaded him that to think that this collection of supplements would reverse heart disease was magical thinking. We trimmed his list down to the essentials and got him on the right track.

Heart disease is controllable and reversible, but not this way. Don't fool yourself into thinking that some collection of supplements will be enough to stamp out your heart disease risk. Just like taking an antibiotic when you don't have an infection achieves nothing, so does taking the wrong supplements.

Comments (3) -

  • Frankie

    4/9/2006 9:11:00 PM |

    Did the 45 year old man have any additional tests other than the CT heart scan? Homocysteine ? Lp(a) ? CRP ? or a VAP to get an overall picture?

    What list of nutritional supplements  were kept in his regime?

    Any prescription meds added?

  • Dr. Davis

    4/9/2006 10:12:00 PM |

    The eventual program we devised for this man is based on the Track Your Plaque approach of:

    1) Identify all obvious and hidden causes of coronary plaque. My preferred method is lipoprotein testing via NMR (See He proved to have 7 previously unrecognized patterns, most notably small LDL and its associated abnormalities. See the website for a description of our approach to lipoprotein testing and how to use it in a program of coronary plaque control.

    2) Supplements must include fish oil and vitamin D. Please also see the website for full description and rationale. Although much of the website is closed access for members, a great deal remains open content.

    3) Prescription medicines are always kept to a minimum but this man ended up with a statin drug because of a severely elevated LDL cholesterol. It's not our first choice but a necessary evil. Remember, this man was virtually certain to die or have a heart attack within the next several years.

  • Scott Miller

    11/2/2008 1:05:00 AM |

    First post on your blog, which I'm reading through from the first post (I've read you most recent 20 posts, too).

    The two supplements most responsible for reversing plaque are:

    o l-arginine (stunning success with this alone by several doctors -- complete removal).

    o pomegranate extract -- clinical trials on humans show a 30% plaque reduction in one year.

    There are several other very valuable supplements for plaque control, including vitamins D3, C, K2, and resveratrol, and IP-6 (a rice bran extract).

    I take all of these (90 supplements daily in my program--47 years old), and have totally clean pipes verified by several tests, including the relatively new Lp-PLA2 tests.  My 70-yr-old parents are on a similar program and have reduced their plaque levels to near zero.

    (Yes, I'm quite wealthy, and can afford these supps and tests.)

    Anyway, superb blog so far, and I've already recommended it with other major health forums where I am well-known, such as (known as DukeNukem).