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Dietary supplements have been around for a long time, and they are continually growing in popularity. Millions of people use them because they are lauded to have countless benefits for the body.

However, some people view them with skepticism, unsure whether they impact one’s health. It is therefore not uncommon to find patients asking their physicians for advice about these products. 

But are dietary supplements all that they are propped up to be? Can they genuinely improve a patient’s health, or might they actually jeopardize it? Read on to find out.

Dietary Supplements; What are They and Who Needs Them?

The Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act defines a dietary supplement as a product that contains:

  • Botanicals
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Herbs
  • Amino acids

The list is not exhaustive, and supplements can contain a wide range of other ingredients. Typically, dietary supplements come as tablets, drinks, energy bars, powders, and gummies. 

Statistics show that nearly 50% of the population uses some form of dietary supplement. The most ardent users of these products include:

  • Persons with Nutritional Deficiencies

The first category of people who use dietary supplements is those with nutritional deficiencies. For instance, if a person is allergic to some foods with a high nutritional value, they may source those nutrients from supplements.

Moreover, some people may have a hard time absorbing nutrients from their meals. Research shows that as people grow older, their bodies fail to take in nutrients efficiently. This can lead to a nutritional deficiency, which is where dietary supplements come in handy.

Additionally, health-conscious consumers can turn to supplements to enhance their intake of essential nutrients. This is because today, foods are not as nutrient-dense as they were years ago.

For instance, a recent study showed that in the 1950s, 100 grams of spinach contained approximately 158 milligrams of iron. Yet, today, the same green leafy vegetable has a meager 2.7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams.

Further research points to an increase in agricultural chemicals as the cause for reduced nutritional content in natural foods. This means that even with strict adherence to healthy eating, there is no guarantee that people are consuming nutrients in the recommended amounts.

For people keen to consume the required amounts of nutrients, dietary supplements present a ready solution to their problem. 

  • People with Specific Nutritional Needs

Another group that benefits significantly from dietary supplements is people with specific nutritional needs. 

Expectant mothers, for instance, are highly encouraged to take supplements to boost the fetus’ health. Taking products rich in folic acid is critical to brain development during the fetus’ first months.

  • People Who Exercise

Exercise has numerous benefits for the body. However, intense exercise can be highly draining, and a lack of proper nutrients can wreak havoc on the body. Therefore, athletes and other highly active individuals fall into the category of persons with special nutritional needs.

Often, people that exercise a lot turn to a supplement to improve their performance. Sometimes, they try it out to speed up the recovery process and enhance the results of their workouts.

What Are The Benefits of Using Dietary Supplements?

Improved Nutritional Intake

The most significant advantage that dietary supplements offer most users is they increase their intake of critical nutrients. This ensures that their bodies function optimally, which is excellent for their health.

Additionally, some supplements can protect users from diseases. For instance, omega-3 supplements use has been linked to lower susceptibility to heart disease. Further, taking vitamin supplements can boost one’s immunity, thus keeping illnesses at bay.

Enhanced Productivity

Supplements can also go a long way in enhancing a person’s productivity in different areas of life. Nootropics, in particular, have a considerable impact on the brain, boosting its efficiency and improving its performance.

Research shows that supplements can alter a person’s mindset, making them more receptive to challenging tasks and causing them to perform excellently. Whether in professional work, working out, or even cultivating better social skills, the impact of supplements on the brain is remarkable.

Are There Any Risks of Using Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements rarely cause an overly adverse reaction. However, healthcare professionals need to impress on their patients that these supplements are not substitutes for healthy eating. If a person chooses to follow a poor diet, it would be unreasonable for them to expect the supplements to undo all the harm the diet causes. 

Additionally, physicians should encourage their patients to disclose any dietary supplements they may be using when they see them. This is because some supplements may interact with specific medication, thus presenting a real threat to the patient’s well-being. Vitamin-K supplements, for instance, inhibit warfarin’s ability to work, thus posing the risk of unwanted clotting.

Therefore, although dietary supplements have numerous health benefits, it is best for patients first to seek the advice of their physicians before they start using the products.

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