Dietary Supplements; Are They Right For You?

Dietary supplements are substances used to add nutrients to an individual's diet who may otherwise not be getting enough of a particular vitamin or mineral or to lower the risk of health complications such as arthritis. They come in many different forms such as pills, powders, capsules, gel tabs, liquids, and energy bars and include amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Dietary supplements can be purchased over the counter. However, those planning on taking supplements are recommended to consult their doctor beforehand.

Who Should Take Dietary Supplements?

Anyone can take dietary supplements, but those who are over the age of fifty, have dietary restrictions, and those who have developed an insufficiency or deficiency should consider taking some form of supplement. People on a vegetarian or vegan diet should take B12 vitamins because there is not enough B12 in organic produce. Most vegans are also in need of vitamin D and iodine, which is a mineral commonly found in dairy products. However, they can also get it in the form of supplements and through sea vegetables or miso soup.

Another supplement that some vegans may want to supplement is calcium and iron. Getting a blood test done can give the results of the levels of every vitamin and mineral within the body.

Antioxidants In Supplements And Food

Antioxidants can come in the various forms of dietary supplements and are found in many fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy diet with many fruits and vegetables can lower risks of certain diseases and kill cancer-causing free radicals. Some examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and selenium.

There has been much speculation as to whether or not there can be too many antioxidants in a diet. It is believed too high of levels of beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers, and that too high of doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Botanical And Herbal Supplements

Botanical and herbal dietary supplements are natural plant-derived supplements known for their medicinal or therapeutic properties. They are commonly prepared and sold as fresh or dried products, liquid or solid extracts, capsules, powders, tablets, and tea bags. The safety of botanical and herbal dietary supplements is dependant on the chemical makeup, how it affects the individual, how it was prepared, and the dose.

To be classified as a dietary supplement, botanicals must meet the definition that it is intended to supplement the diet, contains one or more dietary ingredients like vitamins or minerals, is intended to be taken orally, and is labeled a dietary supplement.

Safety Precautions Of Dietary Supplements

The safety of dietary supplements is an ongoing debate. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks and regulates prescription medications, they do not have much authority over dietary supplements.

Each respective company is responsible for ensuring their product is safe. However, they are not required to share information on the safety of their product with the FDA, and the FDA does not evaluate it before it is sold. If the FDA receives reports of possible safety concerns of a supplement, they may issue warnings, and take the products off the market.

Benefits And Risks Of Supplements

Most nutrients can be obtained through a well-balanced diet. However, supplements can provide additional nutrients to a diet as they are needed, or if there is an insufficiency or deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals. Often, multi-vitamins will be used to provide the patient with a small dose of all of the vitamins and minerals they need, and they will get the rest from their diet.

Most supplements are safe when the instructions on the label are followed, but large doses can have been dangerous and have adverse effects. In large amounts boron, iron, and selenium can be toxic to the patient.

Supplements For Fifty Years And Older

As stated previously, patients over the age of fifty may need to use dietary supplements to get enough vitamins and minerals. Most people can get enough vitamin D by spending fifteen to thirty minutes in the sun twice a week. However, older people may not be as receptive to this and may need to use vitamin D-fortified milk products or cereals, or fatty fish to obtain enough vitamin D. Some other common supplements for those over the age of fifty include calcium, vitamin B6, and B12.

What Supplements Will Work Best For Me?

If anyone is debating taking dietary supplements, it is advised that they learn as much about the supplements as possible and speak to a doctor, pharmacist, or registered dietician. Keep in mind each supplement may affect the user differently and that something used by someone you know might not work as effectively for you.

Consult your doctor before going on supplements, and ask for a brand they recommend and the effectiveness of the ingredients in the product. If at any time there are side effects, immediately stop taking the supplement and consult a doctor and the FDA.

Dietary Supplements For Athletic Performance

Those who are looking to maximize their athletic performance or workout routine may be familiar with some of the dietary supplements used for physical performance. Many supplements claiming they can maximize performance may also claim to improve strength and endurance, achieve fitness goals quickly, reduce injury, and assist with recovery. It is important to remember the FDA does not test or approve any dietary supplement before they are sold, and the manufacturers are responsible for the truth and safety of their product.

Some of the dietary supplements used for increasing performance include antioxidants, beetroot, beta-alanine, betaine, caffeine, creatine, ginseng, protein, and tart or sour cherries.

Dietary Supplements For Weight Loss

To promote healthy weight loss, individuals should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and become physically active. But the addition of dietary supplements may help to lose a few extra pounds. Although products may claim they will help weight-loss by speeding up metabolism, curbing appetite, or blocking the absorption of fats and carbohydrates, there is little scientific evidence indicating they work.

Some dietary supplements that may help weight-loss include green tea and green tea extract, pyruvate, white kidney bean, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), chromium, carnitine, bitter orange, African mango, and caffeine. However, note caffeine may become ineffective when the user builds a tolerance to it.

There may be many positive effects of supplements, but there can also be many risks. Remember to consult a doctor or pharmacist before beginning the use of any supplement, whether it is natural or not.