Volume 11, Issue 107 November 24, 2014
What's the best way to take
your supplements?
As valuable as they are, supplements can be expensive. So how you can get the most out of them is important. Some say that taking supplements intermittently is the best way to take them since it mimics what happens with food intake. Others say it is better to take them continuously. Most studies of supplements give the supplements continuously. And now a new study clearly shows that at least with fish oil, the best way to get the maximum out of your supplements is to take them on a regular basis.

The authors of the study first point out that most Americans who eat fish eat it no more than one to two times per week. So they wondered if taking fish oil supplements twice a week might be better than taking them every day. Here's what they did.

They took 65 men and women with an average age of 50 years. They gave all of them the same weekly amount of fish oil. The only difference was that half of them took the fish oil in two doses twice a week, while the other half took it in equal doses every day. Then they measured the amount of EPA and DHA in both their platelets and their immune cells.

Recall that EPA and DHA are the specific components of fish oil that prevent platelets from sticking together and causing clots. And immune cells work more efficiently with higher levels of EPA and DHA. The results answer the continuous vs. intermittent question. Here's what they found:

In every case, the continuous use of the fish oil supplements resulted in higher levels of EPA and DHA in both platelets and immune cells.

Continued Below...

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Fish oil supplements are fats. Fats are metabolized and utilized more slowly in the body than are water soluble supplements, such as minerals and most vitamins. So if fats are used more effectively with regular dosing, it makes sense that this would be true of supplements in general. So the moral would be to take all of your supplements on a regular basis instead of just every now and then. But there is more to it than that. Because there is a thing called tachyphylaxis.

Once again, we have a really great word to use during dinner conversations. Just start talking about tachyphylaxis and people will be really impressed. Tachyphylaxis describes a basic principle of how the body works. What it means is that the more you do the same thing to the body, the less responsive it becomes. This is true of exercise. That's why you should always switch up on your exercise regimes periodically after your body has gotten good and used to them. And it's also why you should stop your supplements every now and then. If you forget to take them on vacation, don’t stress about it. This gives the body a break from them, which will tend to prevent tachyphylaxis.

Yours for better health,

Browning LM, Walker CG, Mander AP, et al. Compared with daily, weekly n-3 PUFA intake affects the incorporation of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid into platelets and mononuclear cells in humans. J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):667-72.

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