Are Health Supplements Necessary?

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

Ensuring proper nutrition is vital in supporting the activities of day-to-day living, as well as the foundation of good health. However, maintaining consistency with a healthy and balanced diet can be more difficult than one can imagine. It is therefore no surprise that many have turned to health supplements to fulfill their nutritional requirements. 

Typically marketed in pill, powder or liquid dosage form, health supplements can be defined as products used to support the functions of the human body by providing increased nutritional benefits beyond that of a regular diet. Although most health supplements claim to contain natural ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids or enzymes, many still question the effectiveness of such supplements, going as far as to assert that they only provide a placebo effect. 

Who Needs Health Supplements?

Besides ensuring one’s basic nutritional needs are covered, health supplements play an important role for particular high risk groups. These groups of people tend to face a higher risk of suffering from nutrient deficiency and may consider adding certain supplements to their diets. 

As our body’s ability to process and absorb certain vitamins naturally declines with age, senior citizens tend to be at risk of nutrient deficiency. Vitamin B12 supplements are particularly important for them to prevent anemia and fatigueness. Additionally, seniors are also likely to spend more time indoors, which results in them receiving insufficient sunlight. Vitamin D supplements are necessary for them to prevent a loss in bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures. 

Secondly, women who are pregnant or are trying for a baby should consider taking folic acid supplements. Folic acid, which is a man-made version of vitamin B9, aids in the healthy development of babies and reduces potential birth defects. 

Lastly, individuals consuming a restricted or limited diet may benefit from vitamin or calcium supplements, especially when certain food groups such as dairy or meat are left out. 

Outside of these high risk groups, one should theoretically be able to receive all the necessary nutrients from his or her diet. However, several studies have shown that food in today’s society is far less nutritious than it used to be. An increased usage in chemicals and fertilizers by industrial farming practices over the years have nutritionally depleted food crops, particularly our fruits, vegetables and grains. Further processing as well as added preservatives and additives also contribute to increasing deficiencies in our food supply.

Moreover, it is common for many to fall short in maintaining a healthy diet due to the fast paced nature of our modern lifestyles. Varying other factors such as gender, stress or fitness levels could also dictate an increased intake of nutrients necessary to sustain an individual. 

Which Health Supplements are the Best?

In the United States, health supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as they are classified as food products and thus not intended for medicinal purposes. This approach is found in similar regulatory systems of other developed countries as well. It is then imperative that one should practice personal caution when purchasing health supplements, only choosing those that provide proven health benefits. 

While there is no magic pill supplement that provides all-around good health, specific supplements have proven effective in enhancing health in their respective ways. For example, antioxidant supplements provide protection against free radicals, highly reactive compounds that cause harm to the body. At accumulated levels, free radicals can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Fortunately, antioxidants can be found in a wide range of foods which include berries, dark chocolate and even coffee. However, antioxidant supplements such as elderberry drops may be recommended should one's diet be inadequate. 

Fish oil is another popular supplement that is perhaps best known for reducing blood clotting and joint inflammation, as well as promoting heart health. It contains omega 3-fatty acids, which can only be naturally found in specific cold water fish and nuts. Unlike antioxidants however, omega 3-fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body, which makes fish oil supplements ideal for those adverse to seafood. 

Finally, one may also consider adding probiotic supplements for their positive effects on gut health. Not to be confused with prebiotics, probiotics are beneficial bacteria found only in fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi. Besides primarily aiding digestion, a probiotic supplement would further help maintain a healthy community of microorganisms in the body, keeping it working well. 

With a multitude of health supplement products on the market, it can be difficult to deduce which products are worth taking. Misleading or exaggerated advertising claims made by dubious supplement dealers also further complicate the process. As such, it is advisable to only purchase health supplements from reputable stores or pharmacies, and to seek professional help from healthcare providers when uncertain. 
Ultimately, the role of health supplements was never to prevent chronic illness or disease but rather act as a nutritional boost to help correct deficiencies in one’s diet. Adopting a “food first” approach that focuses on a varied diet before adding an “insurance policy” in the form of supplementation will surely prove beneficial to one’s health in the long run.

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

Page Comments