Chances are you have probably taken a vitamin pill, or some form of dietary supplement at some stage in your life. Perhaps you even take them on a daily basis? Yet did you know that not all supplements are safe simply because they claim to be, or come from a ‘natural’ source?
Taking dietary supplements is something people have been doing in some form or another for thousands of years. Even though the way in which we ingest them has been refined into easy to swallow pills, or pleasant tasting tinctures, the basic principle remains the same; dietary supplements are supposed to enhance the amount of nutrients you ingest in a way that is beneficial to your health.
It might surprise you to know that about half of the first world population all use dietary supplements on a daily or regular basis, and choose from over 50,000 different supplements available. These supplements include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, herbs and botanicals, all of which come in a variety of forms which include tablets, capsules, powder, tinctures, drinks, energy bars and snacks. Some of the more popular supplements include vitamins B, C, D and E, minerals including iron and calcium, herbs such as primrose, Echinacea, garlic and St John’s wart as well as specialty supplements including probiotics, fish oils and glucosamine. There are also the popular sports nutrition supplements which include protein, creatine, amino acids and fat burners.
Are They Worth It?
The reality of it is that unless you have a pre-existing health or dietary reason, you should be able to get all the nutrients you need from a healthy and balanced diet. However some people do have reasons that require them to use supplements to make up for a lack of nutrients, such as geographical, diet or health reasons.
Some of these may include;
- Pregnant woman
- Nursing mothers
- People with specific food allergies
- Senior citizens
- People who are unwell
What Are The Risks Involved?
The other important thing to consider is that supplements are not safe to swallow by the bottle full just because they are not prescription drugs, or because they are ‘natural’. In fact Marina Heinone, who works at Helsinki University, has stated that she believes more than 90% of health claims on dietary supplements are incorrect!
Some supplements can also be very dangerous in high doses, or they may contain trace amounts of gluten or other allergens. Others inhibit the effectiveness of other medications, such as the contraceptive pill or anti-depressants, and some can have adverse effects on certain people, including unborn babies.
For these reasons it is important that you always follow the instructions and make sure you consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any symptoms or concerns.