Dietary supplements have slowly gained popularity recently over the years as a way to add nutrients to one’s diet. The National Institute for Aging defines dietary supplements as substances you use to add nutrients to your diet to lower your risk of health problems. Dietary supplements come in different forms. They commonly come in the form of pills but can also come as gels, powders, liquids, capsules.
In addition, the Harvard Health Journal defines dietary supplements as a term that includes everything from vitamins, minerals and botanicals. For the most part, people use “supplement” to mean an individual vitamin or mineral preparation or a multivitamin.
There is the perception that dietary supplements are meant for older adults and women only. However, recent studies have shown that individuals across various age groups can take dietary supplements for overall health and wellbeing.
It is true that older individuals and women will most often than not need to take supplements. In the case of older individuals, changing dietary needs that come with ageing deem it necessary for them to take supplements. Some of these reasons include: –
- They become less active and equally the energy requirement decreases, metabolism slows hence caloric intake needs to reduce
- Their ability to absorb many nutrients becomes less efficient and will require more nutrients
- Some adults with chronic conditions are on medication that hinders the absorption of nutrients and will need to take dietary supplements
According to Everyday Health, women need various supplements for different kind of reasons. Some of the key supplements that women require include: –
- Calcium- Vital for teens and young women because approximately 90% of adult bone mass is achieved by age 18. Women older than 30 typically start to lose bone mass and strength. Menopausal and postmenopausal women can benefit from taking calcium because bone loss tends to accelerate as the body produces less estrogen
- Omega 3s- This is mainly for pregnant women to enhance brain development of their baby.
- Folate- This supplement is critical in preventing neural tube abnormalities in the foetus, such as spina bifida. It also aids in supporting normal levels of homocysteine in the blood, a controversial heart risk factor
- B Vitamins- Women older than 50 can benefit from vitamin B12 supplements as age makes it harder to absorb this nutrient from food. Women who also exercise regularly are also encouraged to take B Vitamins
Young Adults, Teens and Children
The Health Food and Information Service recommends that all children aged six months to five years take supplements containing Vitamins A, C, D. This is because children may not receive all these nutrients from their diets. It is important to note that children have different dietary requirements as compared to adults. It is, therefore, imperative to check the age group for whom the particular supplements are meant for when purchasing for children. Supplements meant for adults are harmful when given to children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children who receive a well-balanced diet do not need extra vitamins above the recommended dietary allowances. However, children with underlying medical conditions, restricted diets such as vegans or vegetarians may benefit from a vitamin supplementation plan overseen by a paediatrician. Nevertheless, some of the supplements recommended for teens include Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Folic Acid.
Are they Safe?
The verdict is still out there as to whether dietary supplements are a necessity. Most health practitioners encourage getting all nutrients from a healthy and balanced diet. Some possible health risks according to Harvard Health Journal that come with the use of supplements include: –
- High doses of beta carotene is a major risk factor for lung cancer among smokers.
- Extra calcium and vitamin D may increase the risk of kidney stones
- High doses of vitamin E may lead to a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain
- Vitamin K can interfere with the anti-clotting effects of blood thinners.
- Intake of high amounts of vitamin B6 for a year or longer is may lead to nerve damage that can impair body movements
What are the benefits of dietary supplements?
Nevertheless, there are also a lot of benefits that come with the intake of supplements. These including:
- Patients who suffer from osteoporosis can benefit from the extra intake of calcium and Vitamin D
- People who suffer from a Vitamin B12 deficiency will always benefit from taking a supplement
- Some research also has found that a formula of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, zinc, and copper can reduce the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss among older adults
- Lactose intolerant people can also benefit from taking Vitamin D and Calcium due to lack of milk intake
- Patients with Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can also benefit from supplements
In conclusion, though dietary supplements have their benefits, it is advisable that one seek the advice of a doctor.0