The Truth About Supplements: do they work and should you take them?

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Fish oils, multivitamins, and other supplements are big business, but new research shows they're typically ineffective. Here's what you should know.

The medical community's use of supplements as a regular, functional component of a health regimen has gained support in recent decades. Up to 86 percent of American adults currently take supplements, and a poll found that 25% of those who did so did so because tests revealed a particular deficit. This strongly indicates how patients are becoming more open to using supplements for healing.

Nevertheless, even if it is simple to buy supplements over the counter, it is crucial to always speak with your doctor before including supplement use in your routine—possibly now more than ever.

Who uses supplements and why?

A vitamin, mineral, herb, or other botanical, an amino acid, a food component to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake, or a concentration, metabolite, constituent, extract, or a combination of any element stated above are all considered supplements. Among the supplements are the following:

  • Pre-workout
  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
  • Herbs
  • Weight loss aids
  • Post-workout
  • Muscle mass gainers
  • Protein powders
  • Multivitamins (MVI)
  • Stimulants

The athletic population makes extensive use of these supplements. Those looking to increase their athletic performance frequently turn to dietary, pharmacological, physiological, and biomechanical enhancers. Unfortunately, supplement contamination is likely in sports performance supplements and those targeted for weight loss and sexual enhancement.

How are dietary supplements governed?

More than half of adult US citizens consume supplements, a $40 billion industry. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of regarding the regulation of supplements—or the lack thereof.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of finding dangerous supplements and removing them from the market. However, tainted and adulterated supplements continue to be sold due to an insufficient and ineffective framework to ensure the safety of the supplement sector. They can be highly harmful because of this.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 defined supplements as a type of food and exempted them from FDA safety and efficacy testing before being made available to consumers.

The FDA does make an effort to oversee the sector through post-market surveillance initiatives such as reports of adverse events, consumer complaints, inspections of dietary supplement companies, and monitoring of imported goods. The FDA requires supplement makers to disclose occurrences that warrant medical intervention to prevent death, hospitalization, or birth abnormalities. A class 1 recall may be made if a supplement has the potential to cause significant health problems, necessitating the removal of these goods from the market.

The FDA's Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research maintains a record of Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements on their website to keep the public aware. This online resource is meant to educate customers like you and reduce the risk of consuming tainted supplements. In addition, you can look up any supplement you're thinking about taking to ensure it hasn't been contaminated.

Stuff You Should Know About Supplements

Different types of supplements exist.

The purpose of dietary supplements, whether they are in pill, powder, or liquid form, is frequently the same: to supplement your diet so that you acquire enough nutrients and improve your health.

At least one nutritional component, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, or enzymes, is present in them. In addition, some of the most well-liked supplements are available as independent supplements and multivitamins, which can save you from taking a tonne of pills every day.

What is the lowest common factor? They bear the tag of dietary supplements. A few popular nutritional supplements are:

  • Vitamin D
  • Echinacea
  • Fish oil
  • Green tea
  • Ginseng
  • St. John's wort
  • Calcium
  • Garlic
Supplements aren’t always safe.

Multivitamins often don't present any health dangers. However, it would be best to be cautious while putting anything into your body.

Supplements may have adverse effects if you have some medical issues, such as liver disease or if you are about to undergo surgery. They may also combine with other medications you are taking. In addition, you may need to take further precautions with some supplements because they haven't been studied on children, nursing mothers, or pregnant women.

Additionally, compared to prescription medications, nutritional supplements are subject to fewer federal regulations. Unlisted substances, which could be dangerous, could be found in some supplements. While being promoted as nutritional supplements, some items actually contain prescription medications that are not permitted in dietary supplements. Some supplements that may pose risks include:

  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene can raise smokers' risk of lung cancer
  • Comfrey and kava herbal supplements can harm your liver
  • Gingko, which can make blood more prone to clotting
  • Vitamin K can lessen the effectiveness of blood thinners.
  • St. John's wort, which can reduce the effectiveness of various medications, including birth control pills and antidepressants
Before using any supplements, consult with your doctor.

"The most important thing to remember is to choose a supplement wisely."

Your first step should be to examine your alternatives with your healthcare professional, as the effectiveness and safety of a supplement may vary depending on your specific condition and health.

Furthermore, keep the following simple guidelines in mind while selecting a supplement:

  • Take supplements as advised on the label and as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Keep supplements securely stored and out of the reach of kids.
  • Remember that "natural" does not always imply "safe."
  • Extreme statements, such as "totally safe" or "works better than (insert prescription medicine)," should be shunned.
  • Examine the label for components, medication interactions, and percent daily value (percent DV)

 

Are nutritional supplements safe?

Even though thousands of nutritional supplements on the market claim everything from increased memory to weight loss to preventing the common cold, dietary supplements are not regulated or approved by the FDA before being made available to the public.

Although the absence of FDA approval does not necessarily imply that supplements are unsafe, studies have revealed that some dietary supplements do not contain advertised or other unlisted ingredients, increasing the risk of unintended side effects such as allergic reactions. Nutritional supplements have also been found in studies to be toxic in excessive quantities and to interact critically with other drugs.

 

The conclusion

It's advisable to avoid ingesting them all at once until there is a more dependable way to guarantee the safety of supplements on the market.

Supplementation may be required or advantageous for you if a laboratory test or doctor determines that you have a vitamin or nutrient deficiency. But always seek a prescription specifying the precise kind and dose of supplement to take. And never forget to get medical advice before using any food or herbal supplements.

 

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