There are numerous food supplements available on the market, but who are they intended for? When are they advantageous, ineffective, or even harmful? In this article, we will look at the general guidelines for taking food supplements.
What are Food Supplements?
Food supplements, also known as dietary or nutritional supplements, are designed to provide nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other substances can be delivered in the form of pills, tablets, capsules, liquids, and so on. Supplements are available in a variety of doses and combinations. However, our bodies require only a certain amount of each nutrient to function, and higher amounts are not always better. Some substances may have negative effects and become harmful at high doses. Supplements can only be legally sold with an appropriate daily dose recommendation and a warning statement not to exceed that dose in order to protect consumers’ health.
In Europe, supplement use varies. It is common in Germany and Denmark, for example (43 percent and 59 percent of the adult population, respectively), but less so in Ireland and Spain (23 percent and 9 percent respectively). Women consume more supplements than men.
Ways to better health
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They aid in the nourishment of your body and the maintenance of your health. You can obtain them by eating a variety of foods on a daily basis. This ensures that your body can properly absorb them.
Eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and fish. If you don’t, your body may not get all of the micronutrients it requires. Taking a multivitamin can be beneficial. There is no evidence that they lower your cancer or heart disease risk.
Who needs food supplements?
Food supplements are not a replacement for a well-balanced, healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats should normally provide all of the nutrients required for good health. Most European countries agree that general public messages should emphasize food-based dietary guidelines. Supplements are not mentioned in these guidelines, but there are certain population groups or individuals who may require supplement advice even if they eat a healthy balanced diet, such as women of childbearing age or people on specific medications.
Because of our modern lifestyle, not everyone is able to eat a healthy diet. Several micronutrient intakes are suboptimal in Europe, according to dietary surveys. The EURRECA project, funded by the EU, discovered inadequate intakes of vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, selenium, and iodine. A recent national survey comparison revealed widespread concern about vitamin D intakes, while certain age groups are more likely to have low mineral intakes. In Denmark, France, Poland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, for example, there is concern about teenage girls’ iron intake. Young women with low iron status are more likely to have infants with low birth weight, iron deficiency, and delayed brain development.
Folate status is also important for women who are planning to become pregnant. Folic acid should be taken before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A sufficient folate status can reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects like spina bifida. According to recent research, 50–70% of Europeans have low vitamin D levels. Because vitamin D status is determined not only by dietary intake but also by UV light exposure, there may be a stronger case for recommending vitamin D supplements in Northern European countries. There are already recommendations in some countries for certain groups of the population to take a vitamin D supplement, though more research is needed.
Multivitamins may be beneficial to the following people:
- Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive.
- Women who are lactating.
- Women with heavy menstrual cycles.
- Women who have experienced menopause.
- People who do not consume animal products. Vegetarians and vegans are included.
- People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery to lose weight.
- People suffer from stomach, liver, pancreas, or gallbladder diseases.
- People who suffer from digestive problems. This includes conditions such as gastrointestinal disease, lactose intolerance, and food allergies.
Before you begin taking a dietary supplement, consult with your doctor. He or she can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each supplement. Make sure he or she is aware of any medications you are currently taking. This includes all prescription and over-the-counter medications. Because some medications and supplements can cause adverse reactions. Check the ingredient list on supplements to see what else is in them. Unless your doctor has approved it, do not exceed the recommended dosage on the label. Just because a supplement is labeled “natural” doesn’t mean it’s risk-free.
Things to consider
Consult your doctor if you believe you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. He or she can advise you on which micronutrients you require. A dietary supplement can also be recommended by your doctor. Your overall health and lifestyle will determine this. Supplements can interfere with cancer treatments and surgery. Your doctor will be able to tell you if they interact with any medical conditions you have.
Foods high in vitamin E and beta-carotene, for example, are beneficial. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) advise against taking vitamin E or beta-carotene to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. People who smoke or are at risk of developing lung cancer should also avoid beta-carotene. It may increase their risk of developing lung cancer.
Pharmaceutical companies adhere to FDA regulations. Some dietary supplement manufacturers adhere to the USP Convention quality standards. This means that they are willing to have their products tested. Before they are sold, an outside company will inspect them for quality and purity. These supplements have additional credentials displayed on their labels. Look for “USP Verified” or “ConsumerLab.com Approved Quality” labels.
Dietary supplements are generally safe as long as they are not used in excess. This is especially true for vitamins A and E, which are fat-soluble. Check the label for the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Taking too much can result in undesirable or harmful side effects.
Some herbal supplements, however, may not be safe. They may contain unlisted ingredients that cause you to become ill. Steroids and estrogens are examples of drugs that are not listed on the label. Toxic or poisonous substances may be present in products. Arsenic, mercury, lead, and pesticides are a few examples. If toxic ingredients are discovered in supplements, they must be recalled.
Certain supplements are recommended for certain populations. The overall message is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, read supplement and fortified food labels carefully, and avoid taking multiple doses that exceed the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs). If in doubt, consult a dietitian or a medical doctor before taking a dietary supplement.