Dietary Supplements – Who Needs Them And Why?

Lanu Pitan

Lanu Pitan

Supplementation is one of the strategies to improve nutrients intake. Supplementation can help cure a deficiency or prevent it. Supplements usually contain a highly concentrated dose of vitamin or mineral and are meant to be taken for a limited period of time. They will almost immediately lead to improved nutrient status.

Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash

The dietary supplement is a huge business, with the global revenue of sixty-five billion dollars. But because they are not classified as drugs, there is, unfortunately, little or no government control. This lapse in control often sees manufacturers make exaggerated claims of its benefits. Such ludicrous claims include among others:

  • Grow your hair
  • Cleanse your liver and kidney.

Even worse is that some supplements don’t actually contain what it is on the label, or some contain toxic chemicals up like lead, arsenic acid and pesticides.

In 1994, there’s a Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) that enforces that no supplement company should make any specific medical claim. This is to establish the needed standard required in dietary supplements.

If you are taking any dietary supplements, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the benefit?
  • Why am I taking it?
  • Is there any potential risk?

Types Of Dietary Supplements

There are various types of dietary supplements in the market, ranging from multivitamins & minerals to protein powders, and vials. Each one of them claiming to offer one form of benefits or the other. Let see what The Health Authorities say about consuming dietary supplements.

There are a certain group of people that The Health Authorities advise taking dietary supplements. There are:

Clker-Free-Vector Images from Pixabay

New Born — Newborn are usually given a shot of vitamin K shortly after birth. This is to prevent bleeding, and they get this shot of vitamin K until they are three months old. Breastfeeding babies are also giving supplemental vitamin K, but not those on exclusive infant formula. This is because infant formula is fortified with vitamin K & D.

Vitamin D — Babies also have extra vitamin D once they switch to solids. Adult male over seventy years of age, while female over fifty years of age should take supplemental Vitamin D. This is because in adult skin, synthesis of Vitamin D, decreases with age, even if exposed to direct sunlight.

Also, dark skin people, elderly who are confined to home, and others who rarely go outside in the sun should also take Vitamin D supplement, especially needed during Winter months.

Vitamin A, C & D — are recommended for children between six months and five years of age.

Calcium — The elderly are advised to take calcium because it is more difficult to get calcium from food, and the risk of osteoporosis.

B12 — Adult over fifty years of age, should take Vitamin B12 supplement. This is because most adults suffer from a form of reduced stomach acidity (hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria), a kind of intestinal dis-orders that makes absorption of Vitamin B12 difficult. Vitamin B12 is the only member of the B complex that is derived from animal origin.

Iron supplements & Vitamin B12 — are to be taken by Vegans & Vegetarians. For obvious reasons that these are only present in animal foods.

Iron — Women within child-bearing age and pregnant women.

Folate — Women who are planning to get pregnant, should take folate four weeks prior to conception, and eight weeks after conception. This is to prevent Pre-Eclampsia( pregnancy hypertension — a condition pf high blood pressure & a large amount of protein in urine).

What About Others Not In The Group Above?

What everyone should realise and what most nutritionists recommend is to ensure you get your nutrients from food, not supplements.

When food is right, there will be no need for supplements.

This is because the micronutrients in foods include bioactive compounds and dietary fibres which are more superior and bioavailable than those found in supplements.

The basis of a healthy diet is food, not supplement.

Supplements should be consumed based on health goals. An elderly for instance has a different health need to a teenager. And there is also a concern about routine and high dose supplementation that people consumed on a daily basis which might be toxic in the end.

Getting The Required Vitamin

There are many ways to determine which supplements your body lack and how to top that up. There are many organisations that work on individuals to determine where they are lacking.

There are also vitamin testing kits which can be purchased at health stores to monitor your vitamin level.

The tests range from blood, urine and swab that is constantly monitored to ensure you are not lacking. One such organisation is

Risk in supplementation

Supplementation is without risk, as in everything else. The risk is relatively high doses of micronutrients are used, supplementation can have overdose adverse effect. Therefore a careful risk analysis should be carried out. Another disadvantage is that supplementation do not solve the root problem which is the imbalance diet.


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