Why You Need Nutritional Supplements
The nutritional needs of most adults should be met primarily through the diet. For some people, however, supplements may be a useful way to get nutrients they might otherwise be lacking in their diet. A supplement or multivitamin can help fill the nutrient gaps in your diet.
It is worthy of note that we understand that nutritional supplements are not medications. They fill in the nutritional gaps for those who eat poor diets. In most cases supplements help us reach daily nutritional needs that are tough to meet with food alone. Vitamin D is a good example, because it’s not found in many whole foods. Supplements can be one piece of the puzzle in helping us prevent illness, although exercising and eating right are both more crucial.
Why use Nutritional Supplements
Recent research shows that dietary supplements may help prevent chronic disease. Because oxidative stress underlies many chronic conditions, it is also possible that some combination of vitamins and minerals may help reduce that cause of illness. Most supplements contain antioxidants such as vitamin E and C which removes free radicals and reactive species (substances which causes oxidative stress). However, nutritional supplements shouldn’t be used as a treatment of any chronic disease.
Here are some situations when you should consider nutritional supplements:
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies: If a blood test found that you're lacking in an important vitamin or mineral, it may help to take supplements, as recommended by your doctor, to correct the deficiency.
- Dietary restrictions: If you eat a limited diet by choice — you're vegan, for instance — or because of a health condition, you might not be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need through food and may benefit from specific supplements.
- Pregnancy: Certain nutrients help prevent birth defects and promote baby health. Talk with your obstetrician/gynaecologist about pre-pregnancy and pregnancy supplements, such as folic acid, which help ensure your baby’s healthy development.
- Aging: With age, calorie requirements change, and the amount you eat may decrease. This diet change, along with changes in vitamin and mineral needs, may warrant supplements.
- Inability to absorb certain essential nutrients: Some GI tract diseases and surgeries, such as bariatric surgery, affect your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. Work with your doctor to choose the right supplements for your needs.
- Medications that can lead to deficiencies: Among others, proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux can result in a vitamin B12 deficiency, explains Colleen Gill, MS, RD, CSO, a board-certified specialist in oncology and a dietician with the Centre for Integrative Medicine and the University of Colorado Cancer Centre. Discuss your medications with your doctors to find out if you need to take a supplement.
Dietary supplements also may be appropriate if you:
- Don't eat well or consume less than 1,600 calories a day.
- Don't obtain two to three servings of fish a week. If you have difficulty achieving this amount, some experts recommend adding a fish oil supplement to your daily regimen.
- Are a woman who experiences heavy bleeding during your menstrual period
- Have had surgery on your digestive tract and are not able to digest and absorb nutrients properly.
How much supplements do you actually need?
Over consumption of supplements may create harm, particularly the excess intake of minerals and fat soluble vitamins which can build up in the body. Dietary supplements may be unnecessary if one eats a healthy and balance diet. However, the dietary guidelines recommend supplements — or fortified foods — in the following doses to certain people who are risk of deficiency:
- Women who may become pregnant should get 400 micrograms a day of folic acid from fortified foods or supplements, in addition to eating foods that naturally contain folate.
- Women who are pregnant should take a prenatal vitamin that includes iron or a separate iron supplement.
- Adults age 50 or older should eat foods fortified with vitamin B-12, such as fortified cereals, or take a multivitamin that contains B-12 or a separate B-12 supplement.
- Adults age 65 and older who do not live in assisted living or nursing homes should take 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily to reduce the risk of falls.