We are in a pickle every time we gaze at the supermarkets or pharmacies stuffed with various kinds of supplements. The latest posts backed by scientific research popping up in our newsfeed put us in a dilemma; do we need supplements? Are they good for health or a sheer waste of money? This article will shed light on the intake and significance of supplements and their effects on our body.
The need for supplements
The citizens of this digital age are concerned about their health more than ever. People who eat processed foods on regular basis or those who are on dieting are specifically inclined to experience nutrient deficiencies. Hence, people are becoming more interested to know if they need to take nutritional supplements, even when they eat a healthy diet which is supposed to supply all their nutritional requirements in the right proportion. The straight answer to this question would be; in a perfect world, there would no need for nutritional supplements. However, due to the stress of our busy lives, the food we eat mostly, at times, is of poor nutritional quality and sometimes, contain lots of preservatives, dyes, and colors or toxins which are not good for our health. Furthermore, in some localities around the globe, particularly the developing countries, people are not aware of their dietary needs. As a result, almost everyone needs a basic supply of biochemical substances in adequate proportions for the normal functioning of our body. This can only be guaranteed through the intake of nutritional supplements.
We need nutritional supplements because the foods we eat do not supply the recommended daily allowance of food nutrients and vitamins necessary for healthy living. The most probable contributory factor to this is that food crops are grown in soils where soil nutrients have been reduced to lowest levels. Secondly, plants are treated with chemicals in the name of pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, and herbicides, thus they do not develop the resistance necessary for survival on their own which further reduces their phytonutrient content. Animals, on the other hand, are locked up in pens or giant feed lots and fed with industrial concentrates which contain toxins instead of a free-range method of livestock farming.
Furthermore, the food we eat is processed, refined and overheated or cooked at high flame for a long time which results in its nutrient loss. Additionally, every day of our lives we are exposed to environmental toxins which accumulate in our bodies, we hardly exercise or get enough sleep and most importantly we are so much in love with fast foods because, you guessed right, they are FAST! And we don’t seem to really care about their nutrient content at all. All these factors put us in a significantly worse shape, stressing the need of supplements.
Modern-day supplements are marketed in many forms i.e. as vitamins, minerals, oils, herbal extracts, amino acids, protein or peptides, carbohydrates, dietary fiber or prebiotics, drugs or pharmaceuticals, enzymes, fat or fatty acids, antioxidants, hormones, low-calorie sweeteners, phytochemicals, probiotics or pseudovitamins.
Alternative to supplements: Balanced diet
Today, even with using nutraceuticals and fortified foods (i.e. flour added with traces of beta-carotene or salt added with iodine) almost everyone at one point or another in their lifetime is deficient in at least one of the important food nutrients or vitamins. The implication is that they are receiving amounts lower than the recommended daily allowance for the prevention of certain deficiency diseases. An organic and balanced diet may help us fulfill all our bodily needs leaving no deficiencies behind but our fast lifestyle and abnormal addiction to junk foods hinder us from taking a healthy diet or even practically following the golden rule: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” The lack of a balanced diet and a variety of foods is the contributory factor toward supplement intake.
Supplements do have a deadly appeal but it is important to treat the body according to its needs because the excess of supplements may result in nutrient toxicity and hence adverse health conditions like kidney stones, fatigue, headache, menstrual cycle disturbance, birth defects or liver damage. Therefore, there is a dire need to monitor safety risks and doses.
Difference between drugs and supplements
To be clear, nutrient supplements are not drugs even though they look very much alike. They do not function the way OTC and prescription drugs do. Their function is streamlined with the functions of the body where they provide support for biochemical reactions and enzyme activities in the body. They address a specific body function and nutritional deficiency. Medications or drugs, on the other hand, do not support but interfere with normal body functioning in order to treat a disease.
Supplements are used for a variety of health concerns e.g. to cure allergies, to boost immunity, for bone, joint, eye or cardiovascular health, cognitive function and brain and gut health, energy rush, fat loss, insulin sensitivity, libido and sexual health, detoxification, muscle gain, mood and sleep regulation, testosterone boosting, or as an anti-aging, antioxidant or anti-inflammatory agents. However, supplements do not compensate for poor dietary habits and rather assist the body with its functioning.
To this effect, additional nutritional supplements come in handy to help people with specific nutritional inadequacies or imbalances and to provide additional support for specific moments in our life cycle where there seems to be an increased requirement for some nutrients, for instance in pregnancy, disease, poor appetite or sticking to a vegan diet. Therefore, it becomes very important to find effective, high quality and safe nutritional supplement products. Not all brands you may come across in your search are manufactured with the adequate required doses. Hence, when making a choice of supplements it is very important to choose quality and efficient products to ensure your vitality and good health.