by Cristian Gonzalez and Raymond Chu
You may have personal or secondhand experience taking daily omega-3 or vitamin C pills to supplement diets, believing that they contribute to a healthier lifestyle. What you might not know is that these supplements may be unnecessary. Dietary supplements are commonly consumed orally and are meant to supplement our diets with necessary vitamins and minerals. Since 1994, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been regulating supplements, although only to the extent of ensuring that they are not consumer-toxic . Although the FDA regulates these supplements to a certain extent, those regulations hardly come with the disclaimer that indicates that dietary supplements may not actually be beneficial to the human body.
So the question remains: should you take dietary supplements? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dietary supplement usage within U.S. adult population has increased from 40% to over 50% over a span of twelve years . Although some supplements may sustain your health, such as taking iron during pregnancy or vitamin B12 for keeping red blood cells in working order, taking supplements here and there may not have much effect. Your body is intelligent, only using what it needs from what you consume. Therefore, if you take supplements you do not need, they will just end up being released from your body as waste, which essentially means that you may be paying for nutrients that are not only non-essential, but non-beneficial.
Before taking any supplement, here are some steps you should consider for yourself and your wallet. Speaking with your doctor is a great resource to learn about which supplements you would benefit from, and which ones you do not need to take. The medical history and dietary lifestyles of two people are not identical, so neither are the supplements each individual needs. Taking supplements without consulting your doctor is rather dangerous because potential interactions with prescribed medication can cause side effects. Also, taking the incorrect supplement or overdosing may bring about additional problems . If you ever start experiencing unexpected side effects when consuming any supplement, the safest option is to stop taking them while consulting your doctor immediately. If you believe that you may benefit from taking a supplement you may also want to talk to your doctor.
If your doctor recommends a certain dietary supplement to boost a specific aspect of your health, then that is when to consider the varying brands. When selecting between supplement brands, it is important that you purchase from a reputable source in order to ensure that your body gets what it needs. If you are unsure, always consult your trusted doctor or pharmacist. From time to time, the product within the container may not be what it seems, compromising its effectiveness while potentially harming your body. It should be assumed that not all products on the shelves contain all the right ingredients, are free of contamination, and are properly packaged and labeled .
Often in life, it is normal to be busy and not have time for everything you’d like. However, dietary supplements should never be a first line substitute for a balanced diet. Remember to carefully scan the bottle or container for disclaimers such as, “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Never skip out on reading those labels, no matter how tiny that text is.
1. Dietary Supplements Background Information. (n.d.) Retrieved April 21, 2016
2. Dietary Supplement Use Among U.S. Adults Has Increased Since NHANES III (1988–1994). (April 2011) Retrieved April 21, 2016
3. Questions to Ask Before Taking Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. (n.d.) Retrieved April 21, 2016