Vitamins, herbs, minerals and several other products qualify as dietary supplements. These come in the form of powders and pills, capsules or energy bars, and even readymade drinks. While supplements have an impact on health, they are not required to undergo the rigorous testing process involved in manufacturing and marketing drugs.
Many dietary supplements have benefits for health and fitness. Calcium and Vitamin D are good for your bones. Folic acid supplements are important during pregnancy in preventing nervous system birth defects. However, taking dietary supplements can sometimes have harmful effects on your health. That’s why you should be informed about any supplements you are taking or are thinking about adding to your diet.
What Benefits Can Dietary Supplements Offer?
Dietary supplements are an addition to a regular balanced diet. They make sure that your daily requirement of nutrients and minerals is met. Some essential nutrients like trace metals or vitamins may not be present in adequate quantities in the food you typicall eat. Under those conditions, a dietary supplement can make up the shortfall.
Supplements are not meant to treat or prevent diseases. Any manufacturers who make tall claims that indicate that dietary supplements reduce pain or treat a disease condition are in violation of guidelines and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Do Dietary Supplements Carry Risks?
Many supplements have active ingredients that impact various biological systems in your body. Be it enzymes involved in important cellular functions or the release of native hormones in response to their ingredients, supplements have the potential to alter your body’s internal mileu and disturb the status quo.
Some potential dangers and risks from dietary supplements can result from:
* using supplements along with over the counter medications
* replacing prescription drugs with “equivalent” supplements
* overdosing on supplements like vitamin A, D or iron
Whenever other treament options like surgery are being considered, supplements can have serious effects. That’s why you should make it a point to inform your care giver that you are taking supplements.
Ensuring Safety of Dietary Supplements
There are various regional laws and guidelines in effect in different countries to safeguard the population against the harmful effects of dietary supplements. In most countries, governments will not approve these supplements for safety or effectiveness. Whenever a supplement based on a new ingredient is introduced in the market, it will have to undergo approval by the regulatory authorities before it can be sold.
Manufacturers are required to maintain minimum standards that ensure adequate concentrations of active ingredients are available in the formulation, and contaminants or impurities are kept to a minimum. Labels that represent the ingredients of supplements are also carefully scrutinized for accuracy.
If any adverse reaction or side effect is reported by the public who uses the supplement, regulatory agencies like the FDA may take the dietary supplements off the market. In case you experience a side effect from taking a supplement, you should report the incident to the agency’s helpline for prompt investigation and intervention.
How To Research Dietary Supplements?
To find out details about the supplement you plan to take, ask the manufacturer or distributor for information.
* What proof can they show to support claims made about it?
* How safe are the ingredients?
* Have any side effects been reported and who should not take it?
In general, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not! Be skeptical to an extent. Generally, “cure all” supplements aren’t really effective. Any claims about curing or treating disease are likely to be false.
‘Natural’ isn’t always ‘safe’. And do not take the line that even if this supplement won’t help you, at least it won’t harm you. Some of them might. Research the supplement online, relying on trustworthy sites for data rather than the manufacturer’s own website. Keep abreast of scams and fraud by checking on directories maintained by the regulators.
If you still are in doubt about the safety or efficacy of a dietary supplement, ask your medical practitioner or health care provider for help. They can help you distinguish between legitimate supplements and questionable ones. Your safety should be the first consideration, so exercise due caution while selecting a supplement.
Dietary supplements have a role to play in promoting health and fitness. Before you decide to take one, consult your doctor or dietitian for advice on how to balance your regular diet with the supplements you plan to take.