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Do You Need Dietary Supplements?
Our basic question to you is why we need to take supplements at all, especially when you are not in a health crisis.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet should provide you with all of the nutrients you need, but if your diet is not so well balanced, some of those nutrients might be deficient. For example, a person who hates fruits and vegetables might not get enough vitamin C and someone who refuses to eat dairy products may need extra calcium.
Taking a daily multivitamin is an inexpensive and easy way to be sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need. A few individual dietary supplements have been shown to have positive benefits for your health too. Adding these extra supplements may be beneficial.
Many people do not eat enough calcium-containing foods. This can add to the risk of developing weakened bones. The recommended amount of calcium for most adults is about 1200 milligrams per day. But don’t take that for a long period due to some side effects on heart.
Some of the vitamin D you need comes from the food you eat, but most of it is made by your body after exposure to sun. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the two nutrients are often combined into one supplement. An average adult needs about 400 International Units of vitamin D. Supplements may help, but you’ll probably need to do more than take supplements to prevent bone fractures.
Omega-3 fatty acids will help prevent cardiovascular disease. Fatty fish is the best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, though plants such as flax contain omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fish oil per day is an effective amount.
Folate is a B vitamin and folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and legumes. Folic acid supplements are recommended for any woman who may become pregnant and may also help reduce homocysteine levels, which might help reduce the risk of heart disease. The recommended amount for adults is 400 micrograms per day.
Chondroitin & Glucosamine
Researchers from the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial found that participants with moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis pain found statistically significant amounts of pain relief with 1500 milligrams glucosamine combined with 1200 milligrams chondroitin sulfate supplements.
Antioxidants & Zinc
Study results showed that a combination of antioxidants and zinc taken as a dietary supplement reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration. Zinc is an important dietary mineral, but taking too much supplemental zinc might lead to zinc toxicity.
Foods like yogurt and fermented foods naturally contain bacteria called probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the friendly bacteria normally found in your digestive system. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements and may be beneficial for people with irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.
Points to Ponder
In general, dietary supplements are safe. However, keep these points in mind when you take them.
- Eat a healthy diet. Multivitamins and other dietary supplements will not replace an unhealthy diet. Focus on eating sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Don’t overdose your supplements. Some vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin B-6 can be bad for your health when taken in extremely large amounts for extended periods of time.
- Follow the dosage instruction on the label.
- Know which supplements should be taken on an empty stomach.
- Some dietary supplements can interact with medications, so tell your doctor about the dietary supplements you take.
- Understand the label. Dietary supplement labels can make claims about how the dietary supplement may affect the structure or the function of the body, but not claims to treat or cure a disease.
- They have potential risks and possible benefits. Learn more about benefits and risks of dietary supplements.
- Supplements taken in large amounts may cause uncomfortable side effects. Large doses of iron (usually taken to avoid iron deficiency anemia) may cause constipation and taking niacin might cause a niacin flush.
Who Needs Additional Supplements?
Although you should try to get your recommended dietary allowances of vitamins and minerals from food, the American Dietetic Association and the National Institutes of Health say you may need supplements if you are:
- Over age 50. You may need vitamin B12 and calcium, commonly low in older adults, and vitamin D, which is harder for skin to synthesize from sunlight as we age.
- A postmenopausal woman. You may need extra calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong.
- Dark skinned or have limited sun exposure (less than 15 minutes a day). You may not be getting enough vitamin D from the sun alone.
- Frail or elderly and unable to eat sufficient amounts of food. A poor appetite or illness may prevent you from getting essential nutrients.
- Suffering from nutritional deficiencies from a restricted diet. If you have a food allergy, are a vegan, or have undergone weight-loss surgery, for example, you may not be able to get all your nutrients from food.
- Suffering from a medical condition. Some illnesses, such as cancer, anemia and celiac disease, cause nutritional deficiencies and require therapeutic doses of supplements.
- Undergoing medical treatment. Some medicines, such as cancer drugs and proton pump inhibitors, can interfere with nutrient absorption or use.
- Diagnosed with a chronic illness for which supplements are part of treatment. People with age-related macular degeneration, for example, may benefit from high doses of certain vitamins and minerals to slow vision loss.
A Word of Caution
Be cautious about the supplements you take and why you are taking them. Don’t take supplements before consulting with your doctor or a dietitian for guidance. He or she can identify any nutritional gaps you may have and make recommendations.
Can you Overdose on Protein?
Health and fitness enthusiasts, especially those who are trying to build lean mass or gain weight, often consume very large amounts of protein on a daily basis. If this resembles your diet or you if you are considering increasing your protein intake, you should be aware of how much protein your body requires a day and not exceed this amount. Although overdosing or consuming more protein than your body can process is not fatal, consuming excess protein does have side effects that you should be aware of.
Kidney Stress: Excess protein intake can put additional stress on your kidneys. Although the concerns about kidney stress are valid, excessive protein intake will not cause kidney damage if you are a healthy adult. If you have prior existing kidney condition, consuming too much protein may worsen this condition over time.
Fat Gain: Consuming too much protein or overdosing on protein may cause you to exceed your caloric requirements. Any excess protein that you consume beyond your body’s requirement will simply be converted into fat. If this continues, your body fat levels will increase. Even if you exercise or lift weights, any excess protein you eat will become fat, not muscle.
Calcium Loss and Osteoporosis: Excessive protein intake can result in calcium loss, which can lead to a calcium deficiency over time. Excess protein intake increases the amount of calcium that is excreted in your urine. A calcium deficiency or excessive calcium loss can cause osteoporosis. Even if you increase your calcium intake through foods or supplements, if you are consuming too much protein, your body and bones will not be able to use and retain it. This is especially concerning for adult females and older females who are more often predisposed to osteoporosis and bone loss from natural aging processes.
Your protein requirements, in grams, are based on your level of physical activity and your body weight in pounds. If you are an inactive sedentary adult, your protein requirement, in grams, is 0.4 times your body weight. If you are an active adult trying to maintain your current weight, your protein requirement, in grams, is 0.4 to 0.6 times your body weight. If you are an athlete or adult trying to add lean muscle mass, your protein requirements, in grams, is 0.6 to 0.9 times your body weight.
EHC recommends the focus should be on food and maintain a varied diet. Once you take a snapshot of your diet, then figure out where to supplement to make sure you get everything you need. A multivitamin can act as a nutrition insurance policy. It doesn’t promise anything, just filling in.