Understanding the proper use and different qualities of supplements can help you use them properly — or not at all
Supplements have become a huge industry with lots of enthusiastic promoters. But for all the research that tells us how certain vitamins and nutrients affect our bodies, supplements does not always yield the results we can hope and expect.
“In my clinical experience, benefits from supplements are most successful when tailored to an individual’s unique nutritional needs,” says Dr. Tamara Darragha naturopathic doctor licensed by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.
With so many interests and needs, getting expert advice from a knowledgeable provider can be crucial in any supplement regimen, says Darragh.
Such a specialist may consider many factors, including age, sex, genetics, family history, illness, lifestyle factors, etc. It may also be prudent to check for deficiencies. Any nutritional deficiencies?
With so many different supplements available and with new ones hitting the market every day, beyond expert advice, how can you be sure you’re choosing a safe and quality product? Can high intake really bring some benefit?
One way to verify product quality is to look for products that have been tested by an independent third party, such as ConsumerLab, NSF, or the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG). Third-party inspection is not required by law, but some manufacturers still choose to test third-party products as a sign of their commitment to quality and transparency.
These independent groups test for illegal substances, confirm that the ingredients listed on the label are indeed what’s in the bottle, test the potency of the product, and provide a certificate of analysis (COA). list results. Some manufacturers, such as Nutrigoldprovide a COA for their products for easy access by consumers on their website or via a QR code on the product label.
Unlike prescription drugs, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the safety or quality of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Instead, it is each manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that safety standards are met and that the supplement actually contains the ingredients and potency listed on the label.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Follow National Center for Free and Integrative Health, a 2012 government study found that 20% of supplements marketed for weight loss or immune system support made illegal claims on the label. The FDA has also found prescription drugs in thousands of products sold as functional foods.
The FDA performs several roles. It can inspect additional manufacturing facilities and track adverse event reports submitted by companies, healthcare professionals or consumers themselves. The agency also prohibits supplement manufacturers from making false claims or exaggerating the effectiveness of their products.
But because the human body is so complex and people so different from each other, sometimes science itself isn’t certain.
Research results on the safety and effectiveness of many supplements are mixed and often contradictory, and certain nutrients can present serious health risks or toxicity in high doses. large amounts. That’s why it’s important to consult a trusted healthcare provider about your individual nutritional needs and purchase supplements from a manufacturer. reliable. Make any exaggerated health claims with a healthy dose of skepticism and don’t assume words like “natural,” “standardized,” “clean,” or “verified” as warranties. quality.
According to Darragh, the quality of a food supplement depends on many factors, including the quality and purity of the raw materials, the formulation used, the inclusion or exclusion of fillers and unnecessary dyes. equipment, and quality control during production.
An important point to keep in mind is that supplements are, by definition, intended to “supplement”—not replace—nutrients provided through the diet. Many health professionals believe that, for most healthy people, it is possible to get all the nutrients needed for good health through a varied and nutrient-rich diet.
Follow FDA, a dietary supplement is a product that is taken orally and contains one or more “dietary ingredients”. Technically, it is not a food or a drug, but can include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, botanicals (plant derivatives) or live microorganisms (such as probiotics). Supplements may also contain some combination of these ingredients.
Supplements can be a powerful tool for mental health and well-being for those who may need to fill a nutritional gap. And when chosen and used carefully, they can play an important role in boosting the health and well-being of many people. But they are not the panacea that some promoters, marketers and so-called experts encourage.
There are conditions when additional nutritional support through supplementation is required. People with nutritional deficiencies or medical conditions that lead to poor absorption of nutrients, may need supplements to meet all of their nutritional needs.
Vegetarians may benefit from a supplement, especially with vitamin B12, which is found primarily in animal products. In addition, pregnant or nursing women, those with increased nutritional needs, and those with limited access to healthy foods can benefit.
It is important to note that, while dietary supplements may be “natural” in the sense that they are obtained from the leaves, roots, or another substance found in nature, that is not the case. That means they are risk-free. The same is true for substances synthesized in more industrial processes.
And while other herbs and plants have been used medicinally for thousands of years around the world, it is only in the past century that dietary supplements as we know them today have gained popularity.
It was until 1912 that scientists are beginning to discover that the world of nutrients contains more than just the macronutrients of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The decades that followed led to the gradual discovery of more and more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, which were gradually isolated, extracted, and soon after synthesized in the laboratory. In the years since, they have been commercialized.
Decades of development have taken the dietary supplement industry from obscure to popular. Responsible Nutrition Council, held annually Consumer survey of dietary supplementsreported that its latest results, from 2021, show a new high in supplement use, with 4 out of 5 Americans using some sort of supplement.
And that change is not without some risks.
Problems and Problems
Because supplements are concentrated forms of specific compounds, it is possible to overdose when taking too much in a short period of time or over a long period of time.
For example, a study published on December 22, 2016, in Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin shows that too much vitamin A damages bone health, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
And beyond the huge variation in the quality of supplements, the simple fact is that sometimes the body can’t use certain vitamins or minerals effectively in supplement form. They may need to be supplemented with other nutrients, fiber, or when certain biological conditions are met. That means you can spend a lot of money on supplements and have no results.
Many other studies show that taking various supplements including folic acid, retinol, and multivitamins does not prevent disease or actually has harmful effects. And, according to the FDA, some supplements can negatively interfere with prescription drugs; Others can interfere with lab tests and have dangerous effects during surgery.
One of the most common forms of supplements is multivitamins. And while taking a daily multivitamin may not do any harm, there isn’t much evidence that it does. Like National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health says on their website, “Most research shows that taking a multivitamin does not help you live longer, slow cognitive decline, or reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.”
“I wish there was an ‘insurance policy’ that adds magic, but the reality is that health is too complicated,” says Darragh.
“Nutritional supplements can be part of this mission to prevent disease and health challenges, but I believe they have too much importance. They work most effectively when considered part of an overall plan that includes daily routines including but not limited to a nutrient-rich diet, exercise, sleep, stress resilience, etc. Straightforward, balanced, fun and community. “
Zrinka Peters has been writing professionally for over a decade. She holds a BA in English Literature from Simon Fraser University and has been published in numerous print and online publications including Health Digest, Parent.com, Today Catholic Teacher, and Education.com