Nutritional supplements are dietary supplements that are consumed orally in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, or energy drinks to provide you with the nutrients your body lacks. This may include a wide range of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, proteins, and oils that your body is not able to sufficiently receive from the diet. Many of these nutrients and minerals are either extracted from plants and certain fish oils or, they may be synthesized in labs. It may be an overwhelming experience when you hit the dietary supplements aisle in the store with so many options and brands to choose from, but remember, there’s a lot to consider when choosing supplements that are right for you and suits your body’s needs. It would help if you looked into the effectiveness, risks and side effects, quality of the supplement, and also discuss with your healthcare provider the best supplement for your needs, its dosage, and so much more. In this article, we’ll be covering most of these areas to make sure you’re better equipped with knowledge before you hit that dietary supplements aisle.
Balanced Diet vs. Nutritional Supplements
Nothing beats a healthy balanced diet of lean meat, fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, poultry, dairy products like cheese and milk, and whole grains. These are rich sources of essential nutrients and minerals for the body. However, when it comes to supplements, these are simply nutrients and minerals concentrated and packaged in a pill, tablet, or powder. Some people may go overboard with their consumption of supplements from Now Foods or whatever brand they prefer, and this could have detrimental effects on the body. Many supplements, when taken in combination with other medications or supplements or even on overdose, can be harmful and have dangerous effects on the body. According to studies, a balanced diet provides the perfect ratio and the right amount of nutrients and minerals that are required by your body. Leaving out of the equation, the multiple benefits of food, your body is more capable of extracting nutrients from food as compared to nutritional pills and tablets.
Remember, dietary supplements cannot replace the benefits of a healthy meal, and neither can it contribute to better health and wellness without proper food consumption. For a lot of people, supplements are usually not a necessity, especially for healthy individuals who already receive nutrients from their diet. And despite doctor’s recommendations and brand’s advertisements on health benefits of multivitamins and fish oils, there is no evidence-based research or studies to support this claim.
For individuals who are deficient on certain nutrients and minerals, I would highly suggest and recommend NOT looking up your symptoms and possible remedies for your symptoms on Google (that’s where everyone’s running off to these days and self-diagnosing themselves). Instead, talk to your nearest health provider or your GP, discuss your symptoms if you have any, or let them know about the nutritional supplement you’re considering. This way, they could give you their input, recommend a dose, or better guide you on whether you should be on a dietary supplement or not. And remember there are many commonly available brands like Super supplements and Now Vitamins that could be a better fit for, it just depends on choosing the right supplements for your body’s needs and requirements.
Scary Bit: Risks & Side Effects
Too much of something, especially supplements, can harm the body. The active ingredient present in these supplements may have a strong reaction in the body, which is why you should always be careful with the doses. I always recommend talking to your pharmacist, GP or health care provider to discuss which supplement would better suit you, the dose most suitable for your body and if you’re on any other medications, and whether you should be consuming the particular supplement. According to a study in the US, 23,000 cases yearly are reported of dietary supplements-related emergencies.
A lot of the times, ingredients from the supplements are added to cereals, bread, and other food products, which reduces the need for supplements plus, it saves money. Going overboard with supplements can be toxic for your body. For example, overdose on iron can cause nausea and vomiting and may damage the liver and overdose on Vitamin A could cause liver damage, congenital disabilities, and weaken your bones. These are just 2 of the most commonly used supplements in the US, which is why there are a large number of reported cases on their overdose or improper use.
Sometimes, adverse reactions to some supplements can occur, especially when you’re in the habit of consuming multiple supplements or supplements with other medications. As mentioned repeatedly, supplements can interact with other drugs, for example, St. John’s Wort reacts with antidepressants affecting the drug’s breakdown in the body or Vitamin C & other antioxidant supplements react with chemotherapeutic medication, reducing its effectiveness.
The FDA regulates the quality of dietary supplements, along with all the other drugs in the market. However, FDA regulations for dietary supplements are quite different as compared to other prescriptive drugs. Unlike other drugs that go through pre-market evaluation and approval before being introduced in the market, nutritional supplements do not need a pre-market evaluation and are directly introduced in the market. The companies responsible for the production of dietary supplements are, however, bound to submit evidence that the supplement product is safe and its label is not misleading. Therefore, manufacturers face a rigorous inspection when it comes down to purity, composition, strength, and identity of the nutritional product.
If you ever have any adverse reactions to the dietary supplement, immediately contact your GP or health care provider. Furthermore, contact the company (their information will be on the packaging of the supplement) to report any adverse effects, and you can contact the FDA as well if your health care provider hasn’t already done it. You can contact them and provide your report by calling 800-FDA-1088.
Benefits of Nutritional Supplements
If you are someone who is healthy and is on a balanced diet, then dietary supplements may not be for you. However, supplements might be more appropriate for some people, and in certain conditions, like supplements for diabetes, folic acid and iron supplements are highly recommended and a requirement for pregnant females and Vitamin D for adults aged over 65. For a lot of individuals who consume less food, are vegetarians, are on specific food-restrictive diets, have a medical condition that prevents absorption of nutrients, or may have undergone gastrointestinal tract-related surgeries, supplements may be appropriate for you.
If you are interested in prenatal supplements or supplements for kids, there are many brands like Nutrition Now. They supply multivitamins and prenatal vitamins that come in gummies and chewables. But always remember, before opting for any supplement, be sure to consult with your GP or health care provider. Cover all bases, ask them questions regarding side effects, appropriate doses, or any interaction with other medications. Please do your homework, and read the label and check the active ingredients present in the supplement along with its serving size. And watch what you eat. If you’re already consuming foods that are high on specific vitamins and minerals, then you might have to consider cutting back on the supplements.
Healthy living and happy dietary supplement hunting!