What are the health benefits of dietary supplements? You often see your friends talking about some nutrient deficiency and possible intake of dietary supplements. Well now, it is a common debate whether you should take these supplements? And what are the pros and cons of these dietary supplements?
Do you really need these supplements? Maybe you require some of them but usually not. Taking dietary supplements merely on the basis of friends’ advice, appealing to you on the market shelves, TV commercials, and magazine stories would be dangerous for your health.
Ask yourself and think about it. You may talk to your doctor before taking it. Ask your healthcare provider about:
- What are the health benefits of dietary supplements for me?
- Is it safe for me?
- Possible safety risks of dietary supplements.
- What amount and for how long should I take it?
What are Dietary Supplements?
Now let’s talk about these supplements and figure out what actually is. Dietary supplements are substances that contain such a nutrient that might be deficient in your food and necessary for the growth and maintenance of the body. They also reduce the risks of health problems.
According to U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dietary supplements usually contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fibers, enzymes, probiotics, herbs, and other plant extracts. These supplements are available in the markets in the form of pills, capsules, soft gel, gel caps, powder, extracts, and liquids.
Several supplements are used in addition to vitamins and minerals. Some common supplements enlisted by FDA are:
- Fish oil
- Saw palmetto
- Green tea
- St. John’s wort
What are the Health Benefits of Dietary Supplements?
Eating healthy food is the best supplement to get a variety of nutrients you need in your daily routine. However, some people don’t get enough nutrients from their daily meal, thus need some additional nutrients in the form of dietary supplements. But be careful while taking these supplements. Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before using any supplement.
These are the health benefits of taking dietary supplements:
- Maintain your general health.
- Some supplements can reduce hypertension.
- Reduce the risk of diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
- Strengthen your immune system.
- Provide mental and physical support.
- It may help to lose weight.
- Overcome the deficiency of certain nutrients such as iron.
- Some supplements contain antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, that can be used to reduce the toxic effect of chemotherapy.
- Folic acid can be used to lower the risk of some birth defects such as Spina Bifida.
- Calcium and vitamin D makes the bone strong and help to reduce bone loss.
But be careful while taking these supplements. Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before using any supplement.
What are the Risks of Dietary Supplements?
Although dietary supplements are quite safe. But the topic is still debatable. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration only regulates food and drug products and ensures their safety. But the same is not true for dietary supplements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not ensure whether a particular drug is safe and effective before going to the market shelves.
However, FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations- the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). The DSHEA and FDA are responsible for:
- Prohibit the manufacturers and distributors from marketing those supplements that are adulterated and misbranded.
- Taking action against the adulterated and misbranded dietary supplements before it reaches to the market.
The general saying ‘’excess of everything is bad’’ is also applicable here. Overdose of certain supplements may cause toxic and adverse effects on health. For example:
- Overdose of Vitamin E can increase the action of blood thinners. This can cause easy nosebleeds and bruises.
- High doses of vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage.
- A higher dose of vitamin C absorbs by the gut may lead to diarrhea.
- Some nutrients such as iron and calcium may lower the effectiveness of antibiotics like tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones up to 40%.
- Some dietary supplements can cause heartburn, stomach upset, gas and bloating.
- Unsafe use of certain supplements may lead to some adverse effects like bleeding, headache, nausea, and liver damage.
Natural food products are the best way to get all the necessary nutrients. However, if it’s unavoidable to use these dietary supplements in some circumstances.
It is important to figure out the possible health aspects and side effects too. Always consult your physician or dietitian before taking any supplements.
Moreover, it is also the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure the quality in the production, labeling, and packaging of these supplements. FDA provides guidelines to the manufactures so they can ensure the quality and make claims about the effects of their products on human health. Be cautious about giving the dietary supplements to children and pregnant women as many supplements are often not well tested for safety. Take only those supplements recommended by your dietician or health consultant.
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