According the Farlex Dictionary, the definition of a supplement is “something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen a role.” A dietary supplement, therefore, is any product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. Many people mistakenly think a supplement is something body builders use, but in reality your daily multivitamin is a supplement. The extra calcium chews that women take is considered a supplement. So it then becomes important to understand what supplements do and what the benefits and dangers can be.
When choosing a supplement always remember “safety first.” Some supplement ingredients, including nutrients and plant based ingredients, can be toxic based on their activity in the body. Do your research and think twice before following the latest headline. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study touted to the media. Be wary of results claiming a “quick fix” that depart from scientific and established dietary guidance. Remember: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”
There are a few independent organizations that offer “seals of approval” that may be displayed on certain dietary supplement products. These indicate that the product has passed the organization’s quality tests for things such as potency and contaminants. These “seals of approval” do not mean that a product is safe or effective; they provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, that it contains the ingredients listed on the label and that it does not contain harmful levels of contaminants. These organizations include:
Before taking a supplement, consumers should ask themselves the following questions:
1. Is the product safe?
2. If safe, is it effective?
3. If effective, is it necessary for health?
4. If necessary, am I willing to risk the side effects?
Major health and nutrition organizations recommend taking a multivitamin because most people do not obtain all the essential nutrients needed on a daily basis from diet alone. However, it is important to note that a multivitamin cannot undo the harmful side effects of an unhealthy diet!
The following are suggestions when choosing (and ingesting) a multivitamin:
1. Look for 100% of the daily value (DV) for Vitamin D, and B vitamins, and 20 micrograms of Vitamin K, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, and chromium.
2. Look for 5,000 IU’s of Vitamin A with 40% in the form of beta carotene. (More than 6,000 IU’s of vitamin A actually increases the risk of fractures in people over 50)
3. If a calcium supplement in necessary take a separate supplement.
4. Iron: pre-menopausal women look for 100% of DV of iron. Men and post-menopausal women need only 45% of DV.
5. Strict Vegetarians probably need extra B12, zinc, iron and calcium.
6. Women of childbearing age can benefit from 400 IU’s folate.
What Supplements do you take?
I take a multi-vitamin, Omega 3 fish oil, and calcium everyday.
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