Should You Take Food Supplements? Are They Good or Bad?

Updated on October 26th, 2020
Food Supplements

Nowadays, OTC (over-the-counter) dietary supplements are big business — more than 91,000 products generate about $32 billion every year in the US. Senior citizens make up a big part of these sales, too.

A survey of almost 3,550 adults ages sixty and older published Oct. 1, 2017, in The Journal of Nutrition found that seventy percent use a daily supplement (either a multivitamin or individual mineral or vitamin), 54% take 1 or 2 supplements, and 29% take 4 or more.

But are these pills a waste of money or good medicine?

Supplements are never an alternative for a healthful, balanced diet. And they may be a distraction from healthy lifestyle practices that offer much more significant advantages [1].

What science shows about Food Supplements ?

A dietary supplement includes everything from minerals and vitamins to biosimilar products and botanicals (like the so-called “natural male hormone”).

For the majority, though, people use “supplement” to mean an individual mineral or vitamin preparation or a multivitamin (that is, a product that has ten or more minerals, vitamins, or both) [2].

Even though supplements are well known, there is limited proof that they offer any remarkable health benefits.

Research published on May 28, 2018, by the JACC (Journal of the American College of Cardiology), found that the 4 most commonly used supplements — vitamin D, multivitamins, vitamin C and calcium, — did not protect against heart disease.

Why do so many individuals take supplements if the health benefits are nonexistent or negligible for the healthy, average person? People often think of them as something additional they can do to ensure their basic nutritional requirements are covered.

There’s also a likely placebo effect to taking supplements. Individuals feel healthier if they do something they believe makes them healthy.

The most significant issue with supplements is that the FDA does not regulate them. Supplements can land on the shelf without having to prove they provide any benefits. With oversight and limited regulation, it’s also challenging to know for sure that the supplement is free of contaminants and contains the ingredients on the label.

It’s not all bad news, though. For example, some studies have shown that B-complex vitamins and folic acid may reduce stroke risk.

The Physicians’ Health Study II in 2012, published by Harvard scientists, noted that men who took a daily multivitamin for eleven years had an eight percent lower risk of cancer and a nine percent lower risk of cataracts than a placebo group.

Possible health risks

Many supplements are safe to take, but there are exceptions. For instance:

  • Large doses of beta carotene have been associated with a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers.
  • Vitamin D and extra calcium may increase the risk of kidney stones.
  • Large doses of vitamin E may lead to a stroke triggered by bleeding in the brain.
  • Vitamin K may interfere with the anti-clotting properties of blood thinners.
  • Taking excessive amounts of vitamin B6 for a year or longer has been linked with nerve damage that can impair body movements (the symptoms often go away after the supplements are stopped).

Supplements Are Not For All:

You should be aware that when, how, and what doses of supplements you need and their side-effects if these are taken unnecessarily and too much, before using any type of supplements, you should think about these things.

Do you have any Nutrient Deficiency?

The initial thing which should come to your mind is that you do have any nutrient deficiency?  If you aren’t confident,  then take advice from a  nutritionist, physician, or qualified dietician. It is an unfair practice to take a supplement by yourself without having any knowledge.

Some people take 3 to 4 types of supplements daily without any health professional advice. You may also think about the person who suffers from serious illnesses who cannot take adequate calorie intake; they need enough doses of supplements.

It is suggested that they take well-balanced and nutritious meals for a healthy person, i.e., pulses, whole grain cereals,  seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits, fish, egg,  milk, lean meat, and milk products, etc. rather than taking supplements [4].

When Do you Require an Extra Dose of Nutrients?

The prescribed daily allowances are different for a sportsperson and an athlete than the normal. They need to toil and go through rigorous training to reach their goals.

Hence, they need extra loads of calories and nutrients to meet their requirement by eating foods with supplements, so it’s best to take advice from a sports nutritionist and a qualified dietician. Women also need extra nutrients during lactation and pregnancy. 

See Also
Supplements for Perimenopause

In pregnancy, women need additional calories, proteins, and minerals like calcium, iron, folic acids, etc. to improve the growth and development of a fetus. Lactation also requires proteins and extra calories for sufficient milk supply.

Are There Any Gimmicks Which You Are Greatly Influenced By?

Protein powder is standard nowadays, and individuals are taking it without any advice. Vegetarians receive protein from vegetarian sources such as legumes, pulses,  soy, peas,  milk and milk products, nuts, seeds, few vegetables, etc. Yet, they have to take advice from qualified nutritionists or dieticians.

He or she can inform you how much will be sufficient?  For non-vegetarian individuals, there are many options in protein-rich foods like chicken, eggs, fish, seafood, lean meat, etc. Whey protein powder helps repair muscle tissues. Excessive protein intake can lead to load on kidneys.

For them, those individuals who are having kidney diseases take protein powder. Big no, no.

[Also Read: High Protein Breakfast Recipes]

Is It Okay If You Take Supplements With Prescribed Medicines?

Some supplements may interact with your medicines too. If you are on medication, you should ask a sports nutritionist or qualified physician first before taking any supplements.

Bottom Line

Markets are currently being bombarded with some adulterated supplements, which can be extremely detrimental to health because they included steroids and toxic substances. It’s almost impossible for a layman which ones are fake—those who are going to the gymnasium regularly, getting offers to use this or that supplement.

People need to think that moment, why do they need that supplement, and what may be their adverse-effects? Firstly, they need to know about who can provide that supplement.

Is she/he a sports nutritionist or qualified doctor or a dietitian who has the authority to prescribe any supplement? These days, people are so overwhelmed to lose or gain weight, do not think a moment before taking any supplements.

We should remember that prevention is always better than cure. Always take precautions before taking any supplements.

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