What are Dietary Supplements?
Dietary supplements are nutrients, vitamins and minerals which are meant to supply an additional amount of nutrients to the body, along with that provided by food. They can be in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, juices etc. Supplements have gained a lot of eminence in current times, because of deteriorating food quality and less time to cook and eat. But can supplements replace a diet? Or How effective are dietary supplements? are some of the most common questions asked by individuals nowadays.
They can be derived from natural foods as well as from synthetic products. Even there are fortified foods available in markets now, which are incorporated with nutrients which are normally lacking in natural foods, such as fortified cereals, fortified milk and milk products, etc.
But like any other thing, supplements have their own positives and negatives. Improper usage, or over or under usage of dietary supplements can lead to undesirable results. To better understand the particulars, it is essential to know the important dietary supplements.
Most Effective Dietary Supplements:
1. Protein & Amino Acid Dietary Supplements: There are different kinds of protein supplements available in the market which include whey, soy, casein, pea, blend protein etc. These are beneficial to the body as they help in gaining muscles; strength; promote weight gain or weight loss (accompanied by respective diets); improve immunity, recovery process of the body, quality of skin and hair; transport and store various nutrients, etc.
Whereas amino acids are building blocks of proteins and adding amino acid dietary supplements help in faster muscle recovery, lesser muscle wasting etc.
2. Essential Mineral Supplements: Minerals are extremely vital for the proper functioning of the body and hence it is necessary to maintain correct levels of all the minerals in the blood.
- Iron Supplements: Iron is essential to maintain normal haemoglobin levels, enhance muscle strength, concentration levels, immunity and also reduce fatigue. Low iron levels can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, which is a serious and prevalent condition. It causes extreme low energy levels and the person gradually loses all strength and immunity. Women are more sensitive to have iron deficiencies due to numerous reasons majorly including monthly cycles and childbirth. Moreover, the requirement of iron is very high during pregnancy and lactation, and it needs to be fulfilled for the good health of both mother and baby.
- Calcium Supplements: is another significant mineral, required by the body for healthy bones and teeth, proper heartbeat, muscle- contractions etc and adequate blood calcium supports weight loss. People with low blood calcium levels are prone to develop weaker bones and teeth, body pain and a lot of other complications.
- Zinc Supplements: is necessary for the defence mechanism of the body. It is required for strong immunity, good memory, senses (such as taste) etc. It is beneficial for treating various medical conditions such as low sperm count and male infertility, increases testosterone levels etc.
- Chromium Supplements: promotes metabolism, muscle growth, weight- loss, insulin sensitivity etc.
- Iodine Supplements: helps in the production of thyroid hormone, which in turn regulates the body’s metabolism, supports weight loss and helps in brain development.
- Potassium Supplements: helps in regulating muscle contractions and fluid balance prevents hypertension, supports weight loss etc.
Explore the range of best mineral supplements recommended by Nutrition experts.
3. Vitamins Supplements: too are very essential for growth, development and proper performance of the body.
- Folate (Vitamin B9) Supplements: promotes the production and maintenance of new cells in the body. Normal levels in blood help in preventing cancer and anaemia.
- Vitamin D Supplements: Vitamin-D contributes to healthy bones and teeth, prevention of body pain and various diseases etc. Deficiency may impel underutilization of calcium in the body; even if you are having calcium supplement, the body won’t be able to absorb it. Most Indians are prone to be Vitamin D deficient because of less exposure to sunlight and very few available food sources.
- Vitamin B12 Supplements: It is another vitamin mostly found deficient in Indians, as it is majorly found in non-vegetarian foods. Vitamin B12 is responsible for proper DNA and healthy nervous system.
- Biotin Supplements: (vitamin H or B7), is required for the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They are also necessary for healthy skin and hair.
- Vitamin E & C Supplements: Vitamin E helps in skin disorders, respiratory infections and prevents allergies. Vitamin C helps in collagen formation, repair, wound healing etc.
- Vitamin K Supplements: helps in blood clotting.
- Vitamin A Supplements: essential for good vision.
Explore the Best Multi-Vitamins Supplements recommended by Nutrition experts.
4. Fatty Acids- Omega 3, 6 and 9 Supplements: Omega 3, 6 and 9 are very essential for healthy heart, healthy pregnancy, immunity, healthy skin and hair and maintaining correct cholesterol levels. Research shows that Omega 3 is beneficial for post-workout muscle recovery and athletic performance.
5. Carbohydrate Supplements: helps meeting daily carbohydrate requirement.
6. Probiotics: Probiotics help in activating healthy bacteria in the body, reduce allergies, prevent diarrhoea and is good for the skin.
There are various other supplements, such as Glucosamine (beneficial for joint pain), Arginine (helps in Nitric Oxide production in the body), Spirulina (High protein), Coenzyme Q10 (Antioxidant), Ginseng (improves strength and immunity) etc. Supplements can be very helpful if they are used in the correct way.
Most Common Side effects of Nutritional Supplements and their Prevention
1. Understand, excess or in-sufficient use of any dietary supplement can be harmful. Intake of dietary supplement in very high dosage for a long period of time might cause toxicity, as the respective parameter might already have been on a higher side even before you started taking the supplement.
2. Adding unnecessary dietary supplements can lead to unnecessary interactions with foods, other supplements and various nutrients in the body. Some of them are listed below:
- Ginseng has a hypoglycemic effect in diabetic patients and may cause extremely low blood sugar levels in patients who are either on diabetes medication or insulin.
- Antioxidants (polyphenols) present in green tea or green tea capsules prevent the absorption of iron in the body. Long term usage reduces haemoglobin levels.
- Vitamin K supplements or foods interact with the blood thinner drugs, such as Acitrom, Warfarin etc, and impede their effect.
- Protein-rich supplements and foods interact with the medicines of Parkinson’s diseases, like Syndopa, Levodopa, etc. Hence proteins should be avoided 3-4 hours before and after these medicines.
3. Too many supplements, if consumed together might react with each other and have a bad effect or might simply have a reduced effect.
4. Most dietary supplements contain ingredients other than what you plan to take. Those ingredients might be preservatives, shells of capsules etc. Always keep a check upon these ingredients, these should not be too much in quantity or harmful to health. Even most herbal supplements too consist of such constituents.
Dietary Supplements Usage: What you should know
It is very essential to get your body checkup done, in order to identify the blood parameters which are low and need to be supplemented.
But some supplements, such as multivitamins and multi-minerals with low concentration of all nutrients, omega 3, 6, 9 capsules, probiotics, biotin, collagen (a kind of protein good for hair and skin), plant proteins etc, can be consumed safely for limited duration, even if you don’t get a check-up done (provided you don’t have any medical condition).
However, when it comes to protein, there are tests to investigate body protein levels (such as Serum Albumin, Globulin, Total protein etc) and to be on the safer side you can get them checked. But it is not always compulsory to examine them if you have healthy kidneys. All that is required is to have the recommended intake of protein (rather than exceeding it) under expert supervision, as they can very well identify your protein requirement as per your credentials. If required, they’ll ask you to get the parameters checked.
Always keep in mind, your LFT (Liver function test) and KFT (Kidney function test) have to be completely normal with no history of kidney diseases, to add a protein or amino acid dietary supplement. If there has been such a condition, you should always consult a doctor or a nutrition expert.
Another very important point to note here is, specific nutrients when paired are better utilized or absorbed by the body, such as:
- Vitamin D works well with Calcium Supplements as it is very essential to absorb calcium.
- Vitamin C helps in better absorption of iron from plant sources.
- Complete and incomplete proteins coupled together form a good quality protein and is beneficial to the body.
- Fat-soluble vitamins consumed with fats are better absorbed.
Therefore, dietary supplements can be immensely beneficial, provided that you understand the reason behind their consumption and recommended intake for you. Excessive usage without the understanding of individual requirements may be harmful.