Supplements: Health Necessity or Unnecessary Expense?

Supplements: Health Necessity or Unnecessary Expense?

These days, it’s hardly uncommon to see someone casually popping a handful of pills. If you’ve ever witnessed this, and bothered to ask, you might hear the following: “fish oil,” “vitamin D,” or just, “my supplements.”

While it’s undoubtedly good that so many people are now so health-conscious, the trend gives pause for concern. What supplements do we need, and how many should we be taking? Try to keep these four important things in mind if you’re thinking about starting a supplement regimen.

1. Do you really need supplements at all?

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are a healthy adult with a well balanced diet, you probably don’t need supplements. The Clinic does advise, however, that the following people consider using supplements:

  • Pregnant women
  • Adults 50 or older
  • Women who experience heavy bleeding during their menstrual periods.
  • Those afflicted with medical conditions that inhibit the body’s absorption or use of nutrients

And while the Mayo Clinic is careful to note that supplements should not be used as a food substitute, (because they “can't replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods,”) they go on to say that the following people should consider using supplements as well:

  • Those who eat poorly or less than 1,600 calories/day
  • Vegans and vegetarians with limited diets
  • People who eat fewer than two to three servings of fish a week. These folks should take a daily fish oil supplement

2. When and what you eat

It is important to coordinate your supplement regimen with both your meal content and schedule. Many supplements are absorbed best when taken with food; other supplements are absorbed best when accompanied by another nutrient found in a specific type of food.

By coordinating your meals and supplements you can avoid doubling down on supplemental nutrients. Accidentally overdosing on nutrients is expensive and potentially harmful.

3. Doctor’s orders

You shouldn’t be using supplements to treat a condition unless otherwise advised by a doctor. Furthermore, certain supplements interact negatively with pharmaceutical drugs. You should always consult your GP before engaging in a course of supplements, especially if you are already taking pharmaceuticals.

4. Source, safety regulations and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)

Another important consideration is the supplement’s source. Ask yourself: do you trust the product? Is the manufacturer reputable?

In the case of drugs, we have the FDA to lead us in the right direction. But with supplements it’s a different story. Legally, dietary supplements do not have to be “approved” by FDA—or at least not in the rigorous way drugs do.

Here’s how the process works:

The supplement’s manufacturer is required to provide the FDA reasonable evidence that the product is safe for human use. The FDA then has the power to stop the supplement from reaching the store shelves. This power is diminished significantly once the product is available for sale, because the FDA must prove a supplement unsafe in order to remove it from the marketplace.

So what’s the best course of action in vetting supplements? The answer: talk to your doctor and your pharmacist and then do some serious research of your own.

CATEGORIES: Diet, Vitamins & Minerals, Health Tips, Health Benefits, Supplements, Dietary Needs, Dietary Supplements