Year in year out, people spend billions of dollars on dietary supplements and vitamins. Supplements are believed to be effective in preserving or restoring good health, but the question arises whether nutritional supplements are essential. If one's diet is well balanced and healthy, it should provide all the necessary nutrients, right? However, if the food is wanting, it may be necessary to derive some nutrients from supplements because they can fill the nutritional gaps.

One school of thought that proposes the importance of food supplements is by some medical nutritionists and professionals. They argue that the intake of fruits and vegetables among many people is not sufficient. People have taken to eating processed foods, which contain minimal or useless nutrients.

Older adults and pregnant women need more vitamins than they can get from the food they consume. These professionals also argue that the soil in which food is grown lacks essential minerals.

On the other hand, there is a school of thought that suggests that supplements can be a source of horror stories. A 2017 study available in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that if vitamin B6 and B12 supplements are taken in high doses, they stand the chance of tripling the risk of lung cancer. There are concerns that vitamin B supplements have a link to some cancers, according to the report of the study.

Generally, there is so much hype about taking supplements, a little more than is necessary. But first things first;

The Benefits of Food Supplements

Supplements do not fix all dietary problems, but they sure do play a significant role in filling the nutritional gap that modern day-to-day diets create. Multiple-vitamin supplements contain small amounts of each vitamin, making them an excellent source of essential micronutrients for your body.

Some supplements are sold as individual vitamins, and typically have more substantial amounts of nutrients than multivitamins. You can choose the ones you need depending on the deficiency you want to deal with, or risk factors that pose a threat to your health. For example, you can choose an iron supplement to give a boost to your red blood cells or folic acid during pregnancy to reduce the risk of congenital disability called spina bifida.

Science has proven that the benefits of using supplements cannot be ignored; especially when they are used for specific health conditions. In some cases, however, the benefits have not been backed up by research.

The Risk of Using Food Supplements

The National Institute of Health Office Dietary Supplements has published a report that shows the risks associated with taking food supplements. Since they are not regulated as strictly as drugs, manufacturers are not charged with the task of proving their safety.

Standardization of dietary supplements is optional, but the Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of products that are marketed in the disguise of nutritional supplements. They include products targeted at bodybuilders, sex enhancement pills, and weight loss products.

Taking supplements in large doses can pose a risk to one’s health. For example, fat-soluble Vitamins, A and D, can become toxic to your body when taken for extended periods of time. Vitamin B can especially cause nerve damage, while vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Mineral supplements are not safe either, especially boron, iron, and selenium, which can cause toxicity if taken in large doses.

While some supplements are known to interact well with over-the-counter and prescription drugs, others should be avoided before going into surgery. To be safe, it is wise to consult a qualified and certified physician before taking any supplement. However, if you must take vitamin supplements and have symptoms like bleeding gums, muscle aches, muscle weakness, or fatigue, then keep your intake at the bare minimum of one tablet per day.

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to take supplements or not, remember that the best source of vitamins and minerals are fruits and vegetables. Most contain vitamin C. The good sources include berries, apples, melon, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi, lemons, oranges, dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, and fortified foods among many others.

Just because manufacturers of a particular supplement promote it as a natural product does not necessarily mean that it is safe for consumption. Some herbs, which are thought to enhance one's health like kava and comfrey, can pose a high risk to the liver if not taken cautiously. Health experts advise that it is essential to understand how they are prepared, and how they work in the body. Most importantly, find out from a health practitioner if the supplements are really necessary in the first place.

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