If you take a trip down to the health food store, you’d be overwhelmed by the number of nutritional supplements on the shelves. Picking one can be a tough choice especially if you have no prior experience with supplements. There’s vitamins, weight loss pills, minerals, and thousand others to choose from that you’ll forget what it was you wanted. But are supplements really necessary? And do they even work?
Millions of people use supplements on a daily basis and in 2006, the U.S dietary supplement industry is estimated to have made $22.1 billion on total sales. But does that mean they’re useful or is it just another big industry looking to make money?
Before we begin looking at some of the dietary supplements and the benefits they bring, let’s take a look at the regulation surrounding supplements.
Dietary Supplement Regulation
Dietary supplements can be defined as products that are meant to augment your dietary nutritional needs, contains one or more ingredients like, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs. Dietary supplements are also intended to be taken orally and must be labeled as dietary supplements.
Once upon a time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated dietary supplements the same way it regulated foods. However, all that changed in 2007 and their new manufacturing practice ruling makes sure that all supplements:
- Are accurately labeled
- Do not contain impurities or contaminants and
- Are produced in a quality manner.
The FDA provides strict guidelines to manufacturers for the claims about the effects their products have on the body. So if a manufacturer makes a claim about his new product, they must notify the FDA so that the product can be reviewed.
The FDA regulations are there to ensure that dietary supplements are as safe and as efficient as the manufacturers claim.
Who Should Take Dietary Supplements?
Before you start any dietary supplement, remember that they were designed to supplement your diet and not as a replacement for nutritious foods. The complex nature of foods and all the benefits healthy eating patterns offer is something science has yet to be able to reciprocate. However, a lot of people require supplements because the required dose of minerals and vitamins they need can be hard to get in adequate amounts from your diet alone.
Dietary supplements are most beneficial to:
- Nursing Mothers
- Pregnant women
- Senior citizens
- Strict vegetarians
- Those with chronic ailments like cancer, kidney, cardiovascular, or bone disease
- People with food allergies or intolerances
Benefits of Dietary Supplements
If you’re not getting enough essential nutrients from your meals, supplements may help to bridge the gap in the number of nutrients required by your body. However, dietary supplements can never take the place of a healthy balanced diet.
Several studies have shown that nutritional supplements can be beneficial to your overall health and even helps in managing certain health conditions. Calcium and Vitamin D for example, are vital in keeping your bones healthy as well as in reducing bone loss. Folic acid reduces the risk of certain congenital disabilities, and Omega-3 fatty acids may help some people with heart disease.
Tips for Choosing Dietary Supplements
Experts are in agreement that certain rules of thumb should be adhered to when choosing dietary and nutritional supplements.
- Look for trusted brands
There have been issues where dietary supplements were adulterated and contaminated with heavy metals. Choose respected brands that you can be sure that the product is safe and efficient.
- Read the claims thoroughly
Take a look at the product claims, and if it sounds too good to be true, then chances are it is good to be true.
- Consult with your doctor
It is always important that you check with your doctor before you start taking any dietary supplements.
The Dangers of Megadoses
A lot of consumers tend to go beyond the regular recommended daily multivitamin dose. They like to take megadoses of these dietary supplements. But in this case does more mean better?
Well, the experts say no and in fact, you could be putting yourself in danger if you exceed the Recommended Daily Allowances for some minerals and vitamins.
Remember you’re taking these supplements in addition to the food you eat so exceeding the recommendation can lead to potential toxicities.
You should be extra careful with fat-soluble vitamins and minerals A, D, E and K as they can build up in your system.
The consensus surrounding dietary supplements is that they are beneficial to your health as long as you take them as recommended in addition to your regular foods, and you buy from trusted brands.