Do you use supplements, vitamins or minerals of some kind?
A plethora of people take vitamins and dietary supplements hoping to achieve good health, ease our illnesses or defy ageing. However, the huge range of dietary supplements now available makes the area something of a minefield for consumers.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) advocates meeting nutritional needs through wise selection of a wide variety of foods, but has adopted a policy statement recognizing that nutritional dietary supplements and food fortification may be desirable for some nutrients and for some individuals. There is good evidence that certain vitamin supplements may be beneficial to the health of certain groups of people, such as the elderly, those on energy restricted diets, pregnant women and some children.
How can you be a smart supplement shopper?
When considering using a supplement, a little bit of scepticism is usually a good thing and, as consumers, we should get into the habit of asking some questions and doing some research before we consider choosing products that may affect your health.
In the first instance, there are some simple questions you should ask yourself before buying a supplement, including the obvious one of “do I really need it?”
It may also be useful to ask yourself:
- What do I think this product can actually do?
- Is there solid evidence suggesting it will work?
- Is it likely to cause me harm?
- What do reliable sources of information say about this product?
- Even if it could be of benefit, is it worth the money?
- Is this a problem my doctor can help me with instead?
- Are the claims made valid? If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Watch out for false statements such as:
A quick and effective “cure-all”
Can treat or cure diseases
“Totally safe” or has “no side effects”
Be aware that the term natural doesn’t always mean safe.
Before making decisions about whether to take a supplement, see your health-care provider and/or a registered dietitian. They can help you achieve a balance between the foods and nutrients you personally need as well as the medications and other supplements that you may be taking.
Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t any supplements that work, or that all are harmful. Some supplements do have benefits and may be of use to you depending on your personal circumstances. I can’t tell you how to spend your money, but I do recommend that you look at the evidence and seek reliable information, including your doctor’s and/or dietician’s advice, before you splash the cash.
Above all, remember that your supplement regime is just an insurance policy, a supplement, not a substitute, for a healthful diet.