Food supplements: benefits, types and risks

Dietary supplements are products containing vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids or other dietary substances intended to supplement the diet and provide additional nutrients that may be missing or insufficient in a person’s usual diet. a person. These nutritional supplements are available in various forms such as pills, capsules, tablets, powders, liquids and even gummies.

Common Types of Dietary Supplements and Their Use

Now that you know what dietary supplements are used for, let us tell you about some common types of nutritional supplements.

Vitamins and minerals: These supplements provide essential vitamins (such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12) and minerals (such as calcium, iron and zinc) that are important for various bodily functions, including immune support, bone health and energy production.

Herbal supplements: These supplements are derived from plants and often contain extracts or compounds believed to have health benefits. Examples include ginkgo biloba extracts for cognitive support and echinacea for immune support.

Amino acid supplements: Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Athletes use supplements such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to promote recovery and muscle growth.

Fish oil/omega-3 supplements: These supplements provide omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential cardiovascular benefits.

Fish oil supplements have many health benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Probiotics: Probiotic supplements contain beneficial live bacteria that can support gut health and digestion. They are often used to promote a healthy balance of the gut microbiota.

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Multivitamins: These are supplements that contain a combination of vitamins and minerals in a single formulation. They are intended to cover a wide spectrum of nutritional needs.

Antioxidant supplements: Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E are thought to help protect cells from free radical damage, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Sports and performance supplements: These supplements are commonly used by athletes and active people to improve sports performance, improve recovery and increase energy levels. Examples include creatine and pre-workout supplements.

Read also : Weight Gain Supplements: Try Them to Gain Weight Fast

Are food supplements safe?

Dietary supplements can provide health benefits when used appropriately and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. However, their use also carries potential risks. It’s important to understand the benefits and risks of nutritional supplements before incorporating them into your routine.

Herbal supplements
Herbal supplements have a distinct fan. Image provided by: Shutterstock

What are the safety considerations before taking supplements?

Quality and Regulations: Not all supplements are the same. Some supplements may contain inaccurate labeling, contaminants, or insufficient amounts of active ingredients. Look for reputable brands that adhere to quality standards and undergo third-party testing.

Dosage: Taking more than the recommended dose of a supplement may cause side effects. Always follow recommended dosing instructions on the product label or as advised by a healthcare professional.

Interactions: Some supplements may interact with medications or other supplements you are taking, potentially reducing their effectiveness or causing harmful effects. Always tell your doctor about all supplements you use.

Nutrient overdose: In some cases, excessive consumption of certain vitamins or minerals can lead to toxicity. For example, too much vitamin A can damage the liver, while too much iron can be harmful, especially for people with certain health conditions.

Pre-existing conditions: Certain health conditions can be made worse by specific supplements. For example, people with kidney problems should be careful with supplements containing minerals like potassium.

What are common risks of specific supplements?

Herbal supplements: These can vary greatly in quality and effectiveness. Some herbs may interact with medications, cause allergic reactions, or have unintended health effects.

High dose vitamins: Although vitamins are important, taking too high doses of certain vitamins (megadoses) can be harmful. For example, excessive intake of vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding.

Weight loss and bodybuilding supplements: Some weight loss and muscle building supplements may contain stimulants, steroids, or other substances that may pose serious health risks. They can also be associated with cardiovascular problems and organ damage.

Performance Enhancing Supplements: Some supplements marketed as performance enhancers may have dangerous side effects and their use may lead to doping violations in sport.

Ephedra and bitter orange: These substances, often used in weight loss supplements, have been linked to serious health risks, including cardiovascular problems and stroke.

Pregnancy and special populations: Pregnant, lactating people, children and the elderly should consult health care providers before using supplements due to different nutritional needs.

How to check if a food supplement is safe?

Nutritional supplements offer benefits, but use them with caution. Choose a balanced diet with whole foods and consult a healthcare professional for safe and effective use. Ensuring the safety of nutritional supplements is crucial to protecting your health. Here are some steps you can take to check if a nutritional supplement is safe before using it.

1. To ensure a supplement’s safety and effectiveness, research the brand, check certifications, read the label, and compare nutritional information to RDAs or adequate intake levels.

2. Avoid supplements with grandiose claims or unrealistic results, and be wary of “cure-all” supplements. Research ingredients, including unfamiliar or complex names, to understand their benefits, risks, and recommended dosages.

3. Consult a healthcare professional before adding a supplement, read reviews and testimonials, and avoid proprietary blends.

4. If you experience any side effects, stop using the supplement and report them to a healthcare professional or authorities like the FDA’s MedWatch program.

Importance of diet versus nutritional supplements

The dietary supplement industry is not as strictly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, taking proactive steps to research and ensure the safety of supplements is important for your well-being.

It is important to note that supplements can address nutritional deficiencies but should not replace a balanced diet. Whole foods contain synergistic nutrients and compounds, making them preferred.

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