Who Needs Supplements?
Nutrition supplements are oral products containing a dietary ingredient, such as amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, vitamins, and botanicals or herbs. They are available in various forms, including liquids, powders, capsules, tablets, and energy bars, but should not be considered replacements for a balanced diet. Healthy eating includes an abundance of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, sufficient protein, and healthy fats. However, certain people may need supplements even if they eat a healthy balanced diet.
Understanding Supplement Regulations
Dietary supplements are considered foods, not drugs. They are not designed to cure, prevent, mitigate, diagnose, or treat diseases. Manufacturers must follow certain good manufacturing practices to guarantee their products provide the benefits they claim. A variety of federal organizations is in place to ensure the safety of the products. This includes
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA provides a food and nutrition information center with general information about regulations and frequently asked questions and answers.
- Federal Trade Commission. The FTC combats false advertising claims and deceptive advertising in coordination with the FDA.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA oversees the good manufacturing practices for dietary supplements to ensure their composition, strength, purity, and identity.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS offers dietary guidelines for understanding the need for supplements.
The federal government initiates legal action against Web sites and companies making deceptive or false statements about their products. This includes when products are found unsafe or are promoted as cures or treatments.
People Who May Benefit from Supplements
Dietary supplements do not prevent chronic diseases, but may still be beneficial to certain groups. While the best way to maintain optimal health is to choose a variety of nutritious foods from all of the five food groups, some people just cannot achieve the recommended amounts without adding dietary supplements. The idea behind food nutrition supplements is to provide essential nutrients that fill in the gap between what is absorbed from foods and what is necessary for optimal health. Some of the groups benefiting from supplements include:
- Vegans, vegetarians, and the elderly. Vitamin B12, found mainly in animal products such as dairy and meat, is vital for proper brain function and creating red blood cells. Deficiency can result in damage, anemia, and heart disease. Your doctor can test your blood to recommend the proper dose.
- Pregnant women. Your body uses iron to produce extra blood for the baby during pregnancy. Getting enough iron can help prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Doctors routinely prescribe folic acid supplements in the form of standard prenatal vitamins to pregnant women.
- Breastfeeding women. Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for decreasing infant bone loss and maintaining healthy bones. They can also increase the chances of an uncomplicated pregnancy.
- Women of childbearing age. Folic acid reduces the risks of certain types of congenital disabilities and can also decrease the likelihood of developing high blood pressure. One of the known causes of anemia in women is folic acid deficiency.
Some supplements might supply your body with adequate amounts of essential nutrients, can help manage certain health conditions, and may be beneficial for overall health. However, it is crucial to remember that they don’t replace the foods essential for a healthy diet.
Talk to Your Health Care Professional
Never take dietary supplements without consulting a health care provider or to treat a self-diagnosed health condition. Talk to a dietitian or your doctor about the supplements and doses that may be appropriate for you. Be sure to inquire about side effects and potential interactions with any medications you currently take. Expecting nutrition supplements to prevent or cure chronic diseases may be overreaching, but particular groups of people can benefit from taking them.