Consuming unhealthy food at irregular hours and compensating with health supplements is a common practice nowadays. Are supplements necessary for good health? According to doctors, there is no evidence that such supplements have any health benefits. Around half of Americans consume one or more supplements. Supplements are available over the counter without a prescription and include vitamins, minerals, and herbal products. Generally, people take these supplements to ensure that they are getting enough of the essential nutrients required to maintain or improve health. Before taking supplements, consider: are they required or will they fill the nutrient deficiency gap? Do they really work for a particular health condition? Are they safe?
Are supplements necessary for good health?
Research suggests that due to unhealthy eating habits- our plates are lacking in a number of essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins, etc. We consume supplements to fill the gap left by faulty eating habits. Many of us consume supplements not only to fulfill the body’s requirements but also because we think they will boost our health and protect us from various health problems.
Fulfilling nutrient deficiencies through pills sounds easy. But sometimes nutrients do not deliver on the promise of good health. They can even be dangerous for your health, especially when consumed in larger than recommended doses and without consulting your healthcare provider.
There are a lot of encouraging studies about the usage and advantages of supplements. But generally, these studies are observational. They are not performed in a controlled setting. More stringent randomized controlled trials do not produce the same positive results.
“Often the enthusiasm for these vitamins and supplements outpaces the evidence.” “And when rigorous evidence from randomized controlled trials is available, the results are frequently at odds with the findings of observational studies,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and principal investigator of the VITAL (Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial).
Health Risk factors with supplements
Certain more rigorous tests discovered that the previously observed health benefits were not only ineffective but also contained risk factors. Vitamin E, which was once believed to protect the heart, was later discovered to increase the risk of bleeding strokes. Folic acid and other B vitamins, which were believed to prevent heart disease and strokes, were later found to lack such benefits, raising issues like whether they may increase the risk of cancer. The reason is that observational studies may not control dietary factors, exercise habits, and various other factors.
As per Dr. Manson- “People who take supplements tend to be more health-conscious, exercise more, eat healthier diets, and have a whole host of lifestyle factors that can be difficult to control for fully in the statistical models,”
Health supplements may have mild effects with certain risks and should be used cautiously after consulting your healthcare provider. For example, Vitamin K may reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo may increase the thinning of the blood. St. John’s wort, used to ease depression, anxiety, and nerve pain, may suppress the effectiveness of antidepressants and birth control pills. The herbs comfrey and kava may lead to liver damage.
Should you consume- Supplements for good health?
As per Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian, and consultant to the NIH, “It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one.” He further added, “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”
Certain supplements may have side effects. Therefore, they should be consumed in consultation with your healthcare provider. Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH, suggests that- “You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,”
Hopp further advises-“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,”
“Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”
There is evidence that suggests that the consumption of certain supplements can have health benefits. such as multivitamins, calcium, and vitamins B, C, and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium. Vitamin C and E are antioxidants ( molecules that help prevent damage to cells in the body and maintain good health).
Vitamin B12 is necessary to keep nerve and blood cells healthy. As per Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian, and consultant to NIH- “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,”
During pregnancy, women need iron, and breastfed infants need vitamin D, and folic acid (400 micrograms) daily, either from supplements or fortified food. Haggans suggests, “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need a supplement in the first place, the dose, and possible interactions with the medicine you’re already taking.” He further says, “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit.” (DV is a daily value.) More than the daily requirement of supplements can be harmful.
How many nutrients do we need?
The following are a few nutrients we need daily along with their quantities: –
How to get nutrients to stay healthy?
To stay healthy, we need various nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, to maintain our bone health. Folic acid is for the production and maintenance of new cells, and vitamin A is for healthy vision and a healthy immune system. The source of nutrients is important. Dr. Manson says- “Usually it is best to try to get these vitamins and minerals and nutrients from food as opposed to supplements,”
Healthy eating habits containing fruits, vegetables, fish, etc. contain nutrients and other substances. which work in synergy to keep us healthy. These synergistic effects are lacking in supplements. Therefore, it is advisable to get nutrients from natural resources as far as possible. The following are a few natural nutrient resources required for healthy living.
It is suggested to be judicious about the use of supplements. If you are lacking any of the nutrients. Consult your healthcare provider about filling the gaps through natural resources. Take the quantity as advised. The risk factors must be considered before consuming supplements.
Adopting healthy lifestyle to stay healthy
Adopting healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle play a leading role in keeping us healthy.
The Harvard advisory suggests a healthy lifestyle to keep the immune system strong.
As per Harvard Medical School, boosting the number of cells in the body—immune cells or others—is not necessarily a good thing. “For example, athletes, who engage in “blood doping,” pumping blood into their system to boost their number of blood cells and enhance their performance, run the risk of strokes,” it adds.
5- Healthy habits for long disease free life
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Adopting the following few healthy habits may help.
- Eat a balanced diet, containing fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Drink only in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reducing stress and remaining in a joyous state.
- Don’t hate anybody.
- Reducing electronic screen watching time and adopting a habit of reading.
- Following- the guidelines to avoid infection, such as washing hands with soap frequently, keeping social distance, etc.
Cautions with Supplements consumption.
- Health supplements like Calcium, Vitamin – D, and Vitamin- C Should be taken under medical supervision.
- Multivitamins should be used for specific conditions or known deficiencies.
- There is little evidence that immune boosters can help reduce infection, therefore prolonged use without medical need may have serious impacts.
More studies are needed about the use of supplements. It has been discovered in the past that taking vitamin E supplements helps reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer. But as per Dr. Paul M Coats, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary supplements- “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,”
Dr. Coats says, “Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” He further said, “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first.” “Speak to your healthcare providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.”
Wishing all to be in a healthy state.
(For awareness purposes only).
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Compensating with health supplements
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