Dietary supplement is one subject on which almost everybody has an opinion. Some claim that these small pills can bring a sea of change to your health, while others reckon dietary supplements are no better than placebos and are not needed when one is following a healthy diet regime.
So, which of these two versions is true? Or does truth lies somewhere in middle of these two extreme viewpoints?
What is a dietary supplement?
A dietary supplement, as the name points, is a preparation used for supplementing the diet. It is primarily used for providing nutrients that a person may be missing altogether or not consuming them in recommended quantities.
Dietary supplements are defined as products that:
a. Are meant to supplement the diet
b. Are meant to be consumed orally
c. Has one or more constituent (like herbs, vitamins, mineral, or omega-3 fatty acids)
d. Are tagged as dietary supplements
The most common dietary supplements are: vitamins and minerals (like B vitamins, a multivitamin, or vitamin C), meal replacements, sports nutrition supplements, botanicals (like St. John’s wort, willow bark tea, and other plant and herbs products), and substances that are derived from a natural source (like omega-3 fatty acids).
Truth about Dietary Supplements
Are dietary supplements useful? Yes, they are, depending on whether you really need them or not. This, in effect, sums up the truth about dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements are useful only when used for the right reasons. For instance, a person who, due to certain reasons, is unable to consume essential minerals through food will benefit from taking a multivitamin tablet or pill a day.
Similarly, someone suffering from fever may use a product containing willow-bark for controlling fever. Willow bark has been used successfully by herbalist for years to treat fever. In fact, aspirin contains the same chemical that gives willow bark its fever-controlling attribute.
On the other hand, using dietary supplement unnecessarily will not provide any benefits; instead, it may prove harmful. For instance, some who gets adequate amount of calcium from diet may increase his/her risk to health conditions associated with too much calcium if that person also takes calcium supplements.
When talking about dietary supplements, it is safe to declare that:
a. They are not meant to replace the diet, and a balanced diet is always the best way to get essential nutrients.
b. They should be used only when required, and it is best to consult a doctor before using them, especially if you are taking any other prescription or non-prescription drugs. This is because dietary supplements, like prescription-based drugs, can cause side effects and interact with other medicines.
c. They should be taken only in recommended quantity. Taking more than recommended quantity of a dietary supplement may negate its proposed benefit or, worse, may cause unwanted side effects.
d. They are not meant to replace any medications that you are taking. This applies to the use of dietary supplements, such as botanicals (products derived from herbs or plants), for treatment of certain health conditions.
To have a better understanding of different dietary supplements, go through the frequently asked questions listed below.
Q#1 – Are meal replacement products useful?
Answer – Yes, in some cases they are. Meal replacement products are good alternative to people who are unable to consume regular food due to a certain illness. According to health experts, meal replacement products can also be useful in weight management but only when it is a part of a weight management program that also includes regular exercise and balanced diet for a healthier and better life style.
Q#2 – How many multivitamins one should take?
Answer – Like in case of other types of dietary supplements, multivitamins should be only taken when required. The best way to meet your vitamin requirements is through food. When you eat a balanced diet, you invariably take the required amount of vitamins and minerals.
With that said, experts say that it is safe to consume 1 multivitamin tablet or pill a day to cover dietary shortfalls. Do not take more than one multivitamin a day unless your doctor asks you so.
Q#3 – Do sports nutrition supplements provide an edge?
Answer – Sports nutrition supplements, which include products such as protein formulas, amino acids, fat burners, and creatine, can provide a slight edge but only when used properly.
Research shows that sports nutrition supplements do not provide an overwhelming advantage as believed by many. Nevertheless, these products, when used as recommended, do provide users a slight advantage.
Q#4 – What are glucosamine and chondroitin supplements?
Answer – These are supplements meant for people suffering from joint pain. These two supplements can provide relief from knee pain associated with osteoarthritis. However, you must consult your doctor before using these supplements.
Q#5 – What are the important things one should remember when using dietary supplements?
Answer – The first, and foremost, thing to keep in mind is to use dietary supplements only when you require them. Next, always select trusted brands. In addition, always consult your doctor before using supplements if:
a. You are allergic to certain foods or drugs
b. You are taking other drugs
c. You are pregnant
d. You are breastfeeding
e. You suffer from a heart, kidney or bone disease
f. You have cancer
Article by Peter Markovic
Pete Markovic is a copywriter who is passionate about the best of health and fitness.
Peter has written 1 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.