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Choosing Dietary Supplements - What You Need to Know

Whether they are spilling out of your drawer or take up all your bathroom countertop space- if you take dietary supplements, you’re not alone.

In fact, millions of people in the US rely on them for a variety of reasons. You might be trying to lower the risk of a certain disease, combat nutritional deficiency, or perhaps you want to be more proactive with regard to wellness. Meanwhile, some just want to retain their youthful vitality and energy levels.

Regardless of the reason, dietary supplements promise plenty of health benefits. Usually, these include minerals, herbs, and vitamins, and come in the form of capsules or pills.

Thanks to many wellness brands, now you can have your dietary supplement in drinks, foods, and powders. However, you must keep in mind that dietary supplements alone don’t cure health conditions or diseases.

Dietary supplements can provide specific health benefits as they are a blend of individual minerals and vitamins. Interestingly, you can find recommendations for dietary supplements everywhere- social media, commercials, and magazines. Amidst this noise, choosing the right dietary supplements is overwhelming.

While most supplements can act as a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, evidence varies broadly. That is why it is extremely important to choose dietary supplements carefully. You need to pick supplements that are high in quality and suitable for your health.

Don’t fret if you have no idea how to go about it. We have you covered here. Here is everything you need to know about choosing dietary supplements.

Minerals, Vitamins, and Proprietary Blends- What are Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are typically products containing ingredients such as minerals, vitamins, botanicals, herbs, amino acids, antioxidants, probiotics and, other nutrients. Available in many forms, dietary supplements include gummies, powders, tinctures, and liquids. At their core, supplements are an efficient and easy way to promote your mental and physical health.

They can be a proprietary blend of some unique ingredients, such as minerals and vitamins. Sometimes it is hard to determine the number of ingredients in a blend by just looking at the label of a dietary supplement.

If you’re a healthy individual, it is possible to get all the essential nutrients the body needs through your diet. But there are some conditions, circumstances, and medications when you need dietary supplements to bridge the gap between what you’re eating and what your body needs.

Still, it is important to understand that dietary supplements are meant to supplement, not replace, other compounds or nutrients in your diet. That is to say, when you take dietary supplements, make sure to consume a balanced and varied diet.

Nutrients in Supplements vs. Nutrients in Foods

Including a variety of foods in your diet is the best way to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. It is because you can have food items in endless combinations, and they’ll contain varying amounts of nutrients. Citrus fruits, for instance, come loaded with a high amount of vitamin C. Leafy greens, in the same line, make an excellent source of minerals and vitamin K.

Moreover, foods contain other essential nutrients such as healthy fats, fiber, and proteins. Needless to say, your body needs them to function optimally. Plant-based foods contain a good quantity of phytochemicals and antioxidants. These two compounds play an important role in reducing inflammation and protecting your body from several chronic diseases.

Dietary supplements, in contrast, don’t offer you the same nutritional benefits. As described above, they only meant to add-on -not replace your healthy diet. That is why you see only a concentrated amount of specific nutrients in them.

Observational research on 30,899 adults in the US found that sufficient intake of some nutrients through different food sources can reduce death risk due to heart diseases. However, taking the same nutrients through dietary supplements didn’t reduce the same risk.

Specifically, people with nutritional deficiencies or individuals at increased risk of insufficient nutrient intake can benefit from dietary supplements recommended by a health professional.

Who Needs Dietary Supplements

Generally, if you take a healthy diet or are a healthy adult, you don’t need to take a long list of dietary supplements. While it is better to get essential nutrients through your diet, many people struggle to achieve that.

Besides this, there are several instances in which medical professionals recommend patients use supplements. Usually, following people can benefit from dietary supplements.

  • pregnant or breastfeeding women

  • partially or exclusively breastfed infants

  • children or adults with nutritional deficiencies

  • individuals suffering from nutrient malabsorption

  • people who’ve had bariatric surgery

  • children or adults with restricted access to a variety of foods

  • vegetarians and vegan

In addition to these, people with vitamin D deficiency are recommended to take supplements. It is because getting enough vitamin D is often difficult to get through diet, unlike other vitamins. As the human body makes maximum vitamin D from sunlight, approximately one billion people have a low level of this vitamin.

You may have a deficiency of vitamin D if you frequently wear sunscreen, live far south or north of the equator, have darker skin, or mostly stay indoors. As we grow older, our bodies' ability to synthesize vitamin D reduces because of age and biological changes. As a result, doctors recommend vitamin D supplements.

Regulation of Dietary Supplements

Did you know that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn’t assess the quality, safety, and effectiveness of dietary supplements until they enter the market?

That means you can’t be sure that the supplement you take contains the same ingredients it claims. It is also possible that the product contains different amounts of blends from batch to batch.

Though FDA requires dietary supplement manufacturers to follow the standard guidelines and practices to ensure safety and quality, it doesn’t enforce compliance. But it doesn’t mean that you should not use dietary supplements. One of the best ways to make sure that you’re buying a quality product is to look for third-party testing.

What is Third-Party Testing

Third party-testing refers to analysis performed by an external expert or lab that is not directly associated with the manufacturer. Typically, an accredited lab (approved by CPSC) performs some tests on the product to ensure the safety and quality of the product.

It is worth mentioning that the law doesn’t require any third-party testing for supplements. But some manufacturers voluntarily undergo testing to demonstrate their goal to produce high-grade products.

Certificate of Analysis or COA, for instance, is one of the objective indicators of product quality. Independent third-party companies like Banned Substances Control Group, NSF, ConsumerLab, and USP award this indicator to supplements.

These third-party companies certify or test the product for the following;

  • The supplements containing amounts and potency on the labels

  • Standardized products from batch to batch

  • The supplement has no harmful contaminants or potential drugs

  • The supplement doesn’t include any undeclared ingredients

Furthermore, if you’re a sportsperson or an athlete, it is best to use dietary supplements with NSF Certification. The certificate ensures that the supplement doesn’t contain 270 substances banned by major sports agencies.

Some more reliable independent supplement testing companies are;

  • NSF GMP for sport

  • TGA Approved

  • US Pharmacopeia (USP)

  • Consumer Lab


Potential Concerns to Consider when Taking Supplements

Dietary supplements include ingredients that natural foods have. However, you must consider potential safety concerns before consuming concentrated amounts of the compounds in supplement form.

Here is what you need to take into account.

#1 | Possible Interactions

In addition to discussing the supplement you want to take with a medical professional, it is crucial to inquire about its potential interactions. Remember that supplements contain herbs, vitamins herbs, minerals, and botanicals that may negatively react with the medications, foods, and drinks.

#2 | Ingredients That Can Be Toxic Over Time

One major concern with taking minerals and vitamins through supplements is the risk of consuming the amounts that are too high. They may become toxic or hazardous over time.

Know that many dietary supplements come with tolerable levels of vitamins and minerals. These levels are the highest amounts you can take. Using them consistently may cause negative effects on your health.

#3 | May Cause Negative Side Effects

Keep in mind that your dietary supplement may cause some negative side effects, even if you take the recommended doses. Some reported side effects may include;

Particularly, iron supplements may cause digestive distress. Some herbal ingredients in dietary supplements may cause severe side effects, which include;

  • Allergic reactions,

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Elevated or irregular heartbeat

Summing Up

In a nutshell, dietary supplements are an easy way to take essential nutrients and get health benefits. You may take them to maintain your general health, support physical and mental performance, and promote a healthy immune system.

However, you must focus on the quality and safety of the supplement you’re interested in taking, as they are the most important things to consider. Don’t forget to speak with your health professional about the potential side effects of taking a dietary supplement.

Thus, the article includes valuable details about dietary supplements to help you make an informed decision.


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