Considerations for Taking Supplements

How often should I take supplements each day?
—Many supplement users


When it comes to your health you need a safety net, which high levels of certain nutrients can provide.
t is often said that, “timing is everything,” and while that maxim is not always justified, sometimes it really is. In fact, scientific research confirms that the characteristics and interactivity of individual nutrients determine the frequency with which they should be taken, whether certain nutrients are dependent on others and should be taken at the same time or apart from other nutrients … or foods. Moreover, if you wish to get the most out of supplements it is important to determine the right dose and the right form.

One Per Day Myth

Often, we receive questions pertaining to how frequently a particular formulation should be taken. It all depends. However, when it comes to multivitamins, more times per day is generally better. Sadly, we are told that some of the best selling broad-market multivitamins need only to be taken once per day. This is never true. Then there are the two per day recommendations. Better, but not good. The answer is encompassed by science. Researchers have found that some vitamins have short lives. The half-lives of certain important nutrients, especially water-soluble ones, such as the B-vitamins, are relatively short. (Half-life is the time required for any given amount or concentration of a nutrient to decrease by half, through biological processes.)

For example, the half-life of oral thiamine (vitamin B1) is only about 2.5 hours.1 So if it’s advantageous to maintain high levels of this vitamin (in your liver, for example, or even in your bladder) and not to let down your safety shield, it’s advisable to take three, or preferably four, servings daily. Otherwise your body is left with less than a high level of protection against free radicals and is thus more susceptible to disease. With regard to vitamin C, which also has a short half-life, Linus Pauling advocated taking it throughout the day in divided doses, which overcomes this problem.2 It is a concern of trapeze artists to have a safety net in place for whenever they might fall. Keeping high levels of water-soluble vitamins serves the same purpose, because you never know when you might be vulnerable to a health fall,

The Right Form and Right Dose Truth

When it comes to choline, as an example, there are some acceptable forms and some that are not. The lecithin form contains a lot of fat and tends to become rancid rapidly.3 The bitartrate form has low bioavailability and in effective doses, there is so much bitartrate in this form of choline that diarrhea is almost inevitable. Chronic diarrhea isn't just annoying; potassium loss can be so large that it may cause heart failure by ventricular fibrillation (see “The Power of Arginine” in the April 1998 issue).

As an essential nutrient, the daily amount is highly dependent on your age (see “Do You Ingest Enough Choline?” in the June 2015 issue in the Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw Life Extension News) and may range from 1-3 g daily.

Conflicts of Interest

An example of a nutrient-food conflict is found in a phenylalanine (an amino acid) plus cofactors mind energy formulation. For the best effects you want to take that on an empty stomach because other large amino acids in the diet can interfere with the passage of phenylalanine across the blood brain barrier.

There are many conflicts between supplements and meds. There will be more on this in next month's issue.

If you’d like us to make this a regular column in Life Enhancement, please let us know.


  1. Tallaksen CM, Sande A, Bohmer T, Bell H, Karlsen J. Kinetics of thiamin and thiamin phosphate esters in human blood, plasma and urine after 50 mg intravenously or orally. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1993;44(1):73-8.
  2. Hickey S, Roberts H. Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C. Lulu Press, Inc., Napa, California, 2004.
  3. Wang Z, Klipfell E, Bennett BJ, Koeth R, Levison BS, Dugar B, Feldstein AE, Britt EB, Fu X, Chung YM, Wu Y, Schauer P, Smith JD, Allayee H, Tang WH, DiDonato JA, Lusis AJ, Hazen SL. Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature. 2011 Apr 7;472(7341):57-63.

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