Supplements for health:
Dietary supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and substances for nutritional or physiological purposes, or plants and plant preparations intended to overcome the deficiencies of the regular diet of a person.
Although dietary supplements are very recent, their entry into the market is strongly linked to health disorders that have occurred in past centuries, such as scurvy caused by vitamin C deficiency, rickets, and bone deformities, etc.
Indeed, dietary supplements were first developed in order to prevent different health problems. Today, the use of these supplements extends to the search for the well-being, the beauty, the form, the tone and the delay of the aging. There are thousands of them on the market.
Characteristic of a dietary supplement:
- Concentrated source of one or more nutrients.
- Often specific to certain pathologies, situations or periods of life.
- In no way substitutes for a balanced and varied diet.
- Compliance with dosages is essential to avoid the risks of overdose.
- Auto medication is strongly discouraged.
Why consume dietary supplements?
By following the dietary recommendations a person should consume all the vitamins and minerals they need daily. However, a WHO study found that nearly 80% of the US population would be deficient in vitamin D. Another major deficiency is iron: between 20% and 25% of the world’s population would be affected, causing anemia. These shortcomings are partly related to a little varied diet that is very poor in fruits and vegetables.
Supplements can come in different forms: capsules, lozenges, tablets, pills, powder sachets, ampoules of liquid, flasks equipped with a dropper, solutions, etc…
The FDA has issued a list of vitamins and minerals authorized for the manufacture of food supplements:
For vitamins :
- Vitamin A.
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9, B12.
- Vitamin C.
- Vitamin D.
- Vitamin E.
For minerals, the more important are:
Good to know:
Advertising, promotion and labeling of food supplements should not state that these products have properties to treat or cure any disease, nor should they suggest that they replace a varied and healthy diet. Similarly, they must not assert that a diversified diet does not include enough vitamins and minerals.
Nutricosmetic is a term from the cosmetic industry that means any dietary supplement that acts on the health of hair, skin, nails, eyelashes, etc. This term may also refer to supplements for weight loss, cellulite reduction, muscle gain, etc.
Among the vitamins and minerals favored by nutricosmetics is vitamin C, which helps maintain firm, elastic skin by stimulating the production of collagen and proteins that help protect skin, hair and nails by activating the production of keratin. Iron also helps strengthen the nails and omega-3s plays a vital role in cell renewal.
How to use food supplements?
Although a balanced diet is necessary to be in good health, our current rhythms of life sometimes tend to hinder this balance. In this case, it may be wise to opt for dietary supplements in order to overcome the possible deficits intake.
Recommended nutritional intake:
Official dietary recommended intakes are designated under different names depending on the country and their standards may vary. They indicate, by age and sex, how much nutrients are needed to maintain good health.
In Europe, the recommended intake is referred to as Recommended Daily Intake. The United States have matched their standards, which they have collated as Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). DRIs are divided into four types of reference values: Estimated Average Requirement, Recommended Nutrient Intake, Adequate Intake and Tolerable Maximum Intake.
By assessing your daily intake of each essential nutrient, you will be able to suspect a possible deficiency. However, it is strongly recommended that you consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking a dietary supplement. Remember to read the leaflet, especially if you decide to pair different types of food supplements.
Some special situations may require supplementation to compensate for the lack of certain nutrients. Some doctors strongly recommend that pregnant women take supplements containing iron, calcium, or vitamin B9 since these nutrients are essential for a healthy pregnancy. Women with heavy periods may also be required to consume an iron supplement. People with special diets, such as vegetarians and vegans, or very active people are also more likely to have to use dietary supplements.
What you should keep in mind:
In any case, always read the label of dietary supplements which must include the following indications:
- The name of the categories of nutrients or substances characterizing the product.
- The quantity of vitamins and minerals present in the product.
- The percentage of vitamins and minerals in relation to the DRI.
- How the product is to be used (quantity, frequency, special circumstances)
You also always must keep in mind that supplements can harm your health if not used properly, and above all, it should be settled that health supplements can never substitute a healthy and diversified diet.
Adverse effects of dietary supplements:
Dietary supplements cannot replace the intakes that must be filled by the diet, but can only supplement them. In addition, it is advisable to carefully observe the dosage recommended as overdose may cause adverse effects.
Risks in case of excessive intake of food supplements:
The majority of food supplements are highly concentrated in vitamins and minerals. Unsafe consumption can therefore be dangerous for your health. Various studies have identified risks of disorders related to the poor use of these supplements. One must be vigilant when taking a these products. The opinion of a health professional is highly recommended.
Interactions (with other nutrients or medications):
In addition, many dietary supplements may interact with each other and / or with certain drug treatments. Potential interactions must be taken very seriously to avoid the serious consequences they may have. Our advice is: Do not practice self-medication and talk to your doctor about your plan for supplementation.
To conclude, health supplements are products that can be very useful nowadays because they can correct the intake deficiency of many nutrients related to poor dietary habits of the modern society. However, they should be used with caution to avoid any adverse effects.