Calories – Why I Don’t Take Supplements


This is a hairy subject. You will think I am probably way off left field. But anyway, here we go. First, let’s make sure I’m clear about what it is I’m talking about.

According to Wikipedia (yes, I do on occasion consult it for the conventional wisdom), dietary supplements are defined under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) as “a product that is intended to supplement the diet and contains any of the following dietary ingredients:

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • an herb or other botanical (excluding tobacco)
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, or
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any of the above

Furthermore, a dietary supplement must also conform to the following criteria:

  • intended for ingestion in pill, capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form
  • not represented for use as a conventional food or as the sole item of a meal or diet
  • labeled as a “dietary supplement”

Under the direction of the DSHEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements as foods, not as drugs.

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Calories – How Much Do They Count


Not that they ever left, but calories are back in the news. New York City has recently passed an ordinance that requires restaurants with more than 15 outlets (i.e., chains) to post the caloric count in their dishes next to the prices. This is move is apparently causing a great deal of reshuffling of menu items, according to an article in the New York Times (“Calories Do Count,” by Kim Severson, 10/29/08, p D1). The calorie counting habit has been around for about one hundred years, and while it took a back seat for a while to the counting of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, now it seems to be back on top of the public consciousness.

What are, exactly, the calories that people count? First of all, they’re not “things.” They can’t be seen. They are not “in” food. At best, the digestion of the food liberates them. At worst, there is no real way of knowing how many calories you “get” from the food you eat. Let’s look at the context.

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