Dietary Supplements

Throughout the bulk of the twentieth century nutrition recommendations seemed to focus more upon “what not to eat”. For instance, recommendations were to limit dietary substances such as saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and sodium.

Today, scientists are recognizing that the other side of the nutrition coin, or “what to eat,” ; may be just as important, if not more so. At times the food we consume doesn’t meet the daily recommended amounts of micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals and amino acids). Which are essential for normal/ optimal body function and their lack causes deficiencies and increases vulnerability to disease onset.

If you ask anyone, “What nutrient is good for bones?” most will respond, “Calcium” which is indeed the monarch of bone mineral. The human body doesn’t produce calcium so it is obtained from the diet. If the diet is lacking or inadequate in supply, dietary supplementation is used.

The skeletal system is a busy system, replenishing itself constantly and that for good skeletal remodeling and general musculoskeletal health there are other micronutrients – in addition to calcium – that play a pivotal role. These include for example, magnesium, vitamins D and K2, omega-fatty acids, manganese and some collagen for flexibility.

For these reasons, dietary supplements are often promoted for their health benefits making their use a common phenomenon today. Parents are getting their kids on a cocktail of multivitamins and omega supplements and with others embracing herbal supplements. They come in a variety of forms including; liquid syrups, capsules, soft gels, gel capsules, tablets and powders. They are obtained from both animal and plant derivatives hence catering to everyone’s needs.

The benefits of dietary supplements range from enabling us to reach the daily recommended allowances for micronutrients that are not available in the diet. A good example of this is; vitamin B12 supplementation for vegetarians owing to the fact that its richest sources are animal products.

They also help in the prevention of disease and certain health conditions; Pregnant and lactating women are given vitamin D supplements so as to keep their bones and teeth strong. But to regulate calcium uptake in their body and that of the baby.

Some supplements are used in combination with medication as a method of complementary or alternative disease or condition management; E.g. in the management of inflammatory and degenerative musculoskeletal diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and for joint and muscle pains.

Athletes and sports people also use supplements for improved muscular strength, endurance, and physical performance.

However, supplementation also has its drawbacks as there are proven cases of negative health effects from the use of dietary supplements. Calcium which has over the years been recognized as a core bone support ingredient is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and conditions as a result of calcium being deposited in the arteries and clogging up the blood vessels.

Cost is also a factor; planning and preparing healthy, nutritious meals is less costly than purchasing a quality supplement.

Use of supplements can also cause adverse side effects; large doses of certain vitamins and minerals can cause nausea, vomiting, nerve damage, weight loss, muscle weakness and other illnesses. In addition to these, mixing certain vitamins and minerals can interfere with nutrient absorption, and in other instances may have negative drug interactions with medications making medical conditions unmanageable.

This leads us to the question, “Are dietary supplements good for you?”
The best source of any nutrients will always be in its most natural form and straight from the source i.e. from botanical and food sources. We are therefore advised to fill up on a variety healthy and nutrient dense foods as well as those fortified with minerals and vitamins.

However in the management and/or treatment of micro-nutrient deficiencies and disease conditions as mentioned, dietary supplements are prescribed. Different specialist medical personnel prescribe various nutrients to help with the treatment and management of disease conditions; some dermatologists prescribe vitamin K and zinc supplements for skin, hair and nail health, while cardiologists prescribe omega -3, 6, and 9 for heart and cardiovascular system health, and musculoskeletal health specialist e.g. chiropractors prescribe vitamin D and calcium supplements.

For optimal benefit from any form of dietary supplement, consult a specialist physician and/or a nutrition specialist – especially one with prior knowledge of your health status and medical history- about the right supplement for you and the correct dosages. It is also very important to do research on the supplement ingredients and the product manufacturer before purchasing the product. This is because your body might be sensitive to one or some of the components in the supplement and as a result trigger an allergic reaction.

Taking all these into consideration, we can conclude that dietary supplements (Nutraceuticals) just like any other pharmaceutical product works in your favor if consumed by the right person, at the right time, and in the right dosages.

The only way to stay healthy is to make informed choices. Here is to our making of informed and healthier choices.

Written by:
Ababach Tamiru
Nutritionist/ Dietician
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

Are Dietary Supplements Good For You??

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