Know Your Dietary Supplements
For many people trip to a health store can be an overwhelming experience. The shelves are stacked with so many products, from vitamins to minerals, diet pills and supplements to nutritional supplements.
How do we decide what to take? What is good for us, what actually works and what we need?
How Are Dietary Supplements Regulated?
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, approved by Congress in 1994, defines dietary supplements as products that:
- Are intended to supplement the diet
- Contain one or more ingredients (like vitamins, herbs, amino acids or their constituents)
- Are intended to be taken by mouth
- Are labeled as dietary supplements
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once regulated dietary supplements the same way it does foods, but that changed as of Aug. 24, 2007. The FDA’s new good manufacturing practices ruling ensures that supplements:
- Are produced in a quality manner
- Do not contain contaminants or impurities
- Are accurately labeled
It is very important to remember that dietary supplements are to supplement your diet, not to replace the nutritious foods.
ADA recognizes that some people may require supplements because the vitamins and/or minerals they need are hard to get in adequate amounts in the diet. These groups include: pregnant women, nursing mothers, strict vegetarians, people with food allergies or intolerance’s and senior citizens.
Based on the sales calculations the following are the Top 10 Dietary Supplements:
- Dietary Supplement No. 1: Multivitamins – Multivitamins lead the pack and with good reason. Taking a daily multivitamin with minerals has long been considered nutritional “insurance” to cover dietary shortfalls.
- Dietary Supplement No. 2: Meal Replacements – Powdered and liquid products like SlimFast and Ensure might not be what most of us think of as dietary supplements. But they’re included in the list because they are designed to supplement the diet. And what about weight management? Using a meal replacement can help control calories and be beneficial, experts say-as long as it’s part of a lifestyle that includes exercise and a calorie-controlled diet.
- Dietary Supplement No. 3: Sports Nutrition Supplements – This is a broad category that includes both sports performance and weight loss supplements. It includes pills, powders, formulas and drinks formulated not just to hydrate but to enhance physical activity. Among them are creatine, amino acids, protein formulas and fat burners.
- Dietary Supplement No. 4: Calcium – Calcium is one of the minerals most often lacking in Americans’ diets. But experts say that whenever you can, you should choose calcium from foods such as dairy products, fortified foods, dark leafy greens, soybeans, beans, fish and raisins. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends three servings of dairy each day to help bridge this gap. But there are plenty of people who shun dairy, the best source of calcium in our diets.
- Dietary Supplement No. 5: B vitamins – B vitamins include thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. Many of us don’t need these supplements, experts say. One exception, is seniors, who may need additional B-12 because as we get older, we absorb less of it. Most of us should skip the supplements and get our Bs from grains, dark green vegetables, orange juice and enriched foods. People with certain medical conditions or who take drugs that interfere with vitamin absorption may also require supplementation.
- Dietary Supplement No. 6: Vitamin C – Vitamin C is often taken in an effort to ward off colds, though there’s little proof this works. Your health-care provider may tell you to take vitamin C if you have a wound that’s healing. But wound otherwise, go for food sources. Rich sources include oranges, peppers, grapefruits, peaches, papayas, pineapples, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes and melons.
- Dietary Supplement No. 7: Glucosamine and Chondroitin – These supplements are often taken by people with joint pain. In a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine, these supplements, taken alone or in combination, were not found to provide significant relief from osteoarthritis knee pain among all participants. However, results in a subgroup of study participants with moderate to severe pain showed the combination may be effective. While the evidence is not conclusive, some rheumatologists say many of their patients find relief from the combination.
- Dietary Supplement No. 8: Homeopathic Medicines – These are not technically dietary supplements, but are nonetheless a popular category. Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy dating back to the late 1700s. It’s based on the idea that our bodies have a self-healing response. So, the theory goes, if certain a substance causes a symptom in a healthy person, giving that person a very small amount of the same substance may cure the symptoms. The National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web site notes that studies on homeopathy have been contradictory. Some have suggested the results are similar to a placebo effect, while others have found positive effects that are not readily explained in scientific terms.
- Dietary Supplement No. 9: Vitamins D – Chances are, you are not getting enough vitamin D for good health. It is recommended to take a daily vitamin D supplement or getting safe sun exposure to maintain proper blood levels of vitamin D. And be sure to eat a variety of foods rich in vitamin D such as fortified milk and cereals, salmon and tuna. Check with your dermatologist about guidelines for safe sun exposure.
- Dietary Supplement No. 10: Fish/animal Oil – “95% of the sales in this category come from fish and not animal oils” Unless a doctor is treating you for heart disease or high triglyceride levels, you should not take fish oil supplements. If you don’t like fatty fish such as salmon, it is recommended to eat other kinds of fish such as canned tuna. (Just be sure to avoid any fish that is breaded and fried.) Foods such as canola oil, soybeans, flax and walnuts are all healthy foods containing omega-3s, but they are not a substitute for fatty fish, experts say.
Many consumers go way beyond the daily multivitamin and take mega-doses of dietary supplements. But is more better in this case? No, experts say. In fact, exceeding the Recommended Daily Allowances for some vitamins and minerals could be dangerous. Be especially careful with minerals and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which can build up in your system.
Share with us What kind of dietary supplements do you take?