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Dietary Supplements: The Benefits

It is common knowledge now that the majority of audits within the USA take at least one dietary supplement on a daily basis or quite frequently. Dietary supplements range from vitamins and minerals, herbal, enzymes, amino acids, protein supplements, the list goes on and on. They can come in a variety of forms too, such as: tablets or capsules, powders, drinks and even bars. Popular dietary supplements are vitamin D and E, calcium and iron, herbal – Echinacea, garlic and other speciality supplements such as glucosamine, probiotics, fish oils etc.

Labels on Dietary Supplements

Any product that is labelled as a dietary supplement must carry a supplements facts list on the packaging which will show the content, the amount of active ingredient per serving. It also must list all other ingredients like binding agents, fillers, flavourings and so. Most of the manufacturers will like a suggested serving size, but between your health care provider and yourself may decide on a more appropriate dosage.

How Effective are Dietary Supplements

Supplements can be the ideal substitute when you haven’t eaten a variety of nutritious food. However, it isn’t an ideal situation when supplements totally take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet. There are plenty of sources of information on healthy eating such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and also MyPlate.

There have been several scientific studies carried out that show that some of the dietary supplements on the market are actually beneficial to overall health and for managing certain health conditions. As an example, calcium and vitamin D are known to be important for helping to keep bones strong and reducing bone loss. Folic acid decreases the risk of birth abnormalities. Omega 3 fatty acids particularly from fish oils help a number of people with heart disease. Those are just a few, however there are plenty other dietary supplements out there that need further scientific studies to determine their true value. It is worth noting that The Food and Drug Administration (known as the FDA in America) does not determine whether the dietary supplements are effective prior to marketing.

Dietary Supplements: Risk/Safety

Supplements generally tend to include one or a small number of active ingredients which usually have a strong effect on the body. Always read the packaging including the potential side effects.

Supplements can cause harm if taken instead of prescribed medication or in combination with medication. Some can even increase the risk of bleeding, especially if taken around the time of a surgical operation. This could have negative effects such as reducing one’s response to anaesthesia. Some supplements are also known to interact with prescription medication, for example:

  • Taking vitamin K supplements can reduce the ability of a blood thinning medication like warfarin, Rivaroxaban or Coumadin which are usually prescribed to prevent blood clots.
  • Another potential problem supplement is that of St. John’s wort which can speed up the breakdown of some drugs like antidepressants and birth control medication and therefore reduce how effect these prescribed drugs are.
  • Some antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C and E may reduce how effective some types of chemotherapy act.

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