Dietary supplements contain important vitamins and minerals, but do you need them?
Our bodies need vitamins and minerals in small amounts to function well and stave off certain diseases. A wide and varied diet of natural and unprocessed foods will generally cover our essential nutritional needs. So, why take a dietary supplement?
Even though supplements are designed to include the exact chemical composition of the vitamins which exist in food, they aren’t as effective. This may be because whole foods already contain other vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) which all work in sync.
While taking that daily multivitamin probably won’t do any harm, it is a good idea to ensure that you are consuming a nutrient-rich diet before you reach for the pill bottle.
Some people require additional dietary supplements to correct deficiencies, such as:
- people with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
- older people, particularly those who are disabled or chronically ill
- cigarette smokers
- some vegetarians and vegans
- people with allergies to particular foods
- crash dieters or people on chronic low-calorie diets
- people with malabsorption problems such as diarrhoea, coeliac disease or pancreatitis.
- people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- women with excessive menstrual bleeding.
If you believe you need a supplement, it is best to check with your GP.
There is a common belief that taking regular doses of supplements may guard a person against particular diseases. One example is the regular use of vitamin C tablets to prevent the common cold. However, after much research, this has been found to be untrue.
Supplements are just that – if required, they are best used short-term to boost particular vitamins and minerals in the body, rather than as a long-term addition to or replacement for a varied diet.
Find out more about taking dietary supplements at Better Health Channel.
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