We’ve always heard about how a certain vitamin or supplement can cure a chronic condition, or significantly improve the quality of our lives. However, information on vitamins and dietary supplements is always unclear and confusing. It’s difficult to know which ones offer genuine health benefits, and which ones carry empty promises. By learning about the functions and how supplements and vitamins work, you can make an informed choice about what is right for you.
What are dietary supplements?
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), has laid down a definition for dietary supplement as product that;
· Supplements the food we eat
· Contains one or more dietary ingredients; including Vitamins, herbs, minerals, amino acids, botanicals and other substances
· Comes in pill, tablet, capsule, or liquid form and is labeled as a dietary supplement.
There are different types of nutritional or dietary supplements. Minerals and vitamins supplements are types of nutritional supplements that contain micronutrients meant to help your body function smoothly and boost your mental health. Herbal or botanical supplements on the other hand are nutritional supplements containing a certain medicinal value. Herbal supplements are generally meant to support the health of a specific part of the body such as bones, skin, or liver.
Dietary supplements are used in different parts of our lives to serve various functions and improve the quality of our lives. They can be added to diets to;
· Boost your overall health and energy
· Improve performance in mental and athletic activities
· Boost immune systems and support the body’s ability to deal with illness and age related conditions
· To support the patients’ healing process during disease and illness
Vitamins are micro-nutrients, or substances that your body uses in very small amounts, as compared to macro-nutrients, which are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Vitamins are naturally present in food, but a significant amount may be lost when food is overcooked, improperly stored or processed. For instance, processing whole wheat into flour reduces vitamins B and E, minerals (including iron and zinc), and fiber. Your body needs vitamins to support biochemical functions and inadequacies may cause diseases and illness over time. Let’s take quick look at different types of commonly known vitamins and their specific functions in your body
· Vitamin A: Needed for healthy skin and vision, bone, mucous membrane, and tooth growth, and immune system health.
· Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Important for nerve function and forms part of an enzyme that is needed for energy metabolism
· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin); part of an enzyme that is needed for energy metabolism and is also important for normal skin and vision health.
· Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Aids in energy metabolism and important for digestive system, nervous system and skin health.
· Pantothenic acid and Biotin: part of an enzyme that is needed for energy metabolism
· Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Part of an enzyme required for protein metabolism and helps in making red blood cells.
· Folic acid: Helps in making DNA and new blood cells.
· Vitamin B12 (Cabalamin): Important for nerve function and red cells formation
· Vitamin D: Required for proper absorption of calcium stored in our bones.
· Vitamin E: Is an antioxidant that protects cell walls
Minerals are micronutrients essential for the normal functioning of our bodies. Our body cells need minerals as part of their basic biochemical makeup and chemical balance. Mineral are present in all foods and can be either used in bulk or trace quantities. Bulk minerals include zinc, iron, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, and chromium. Studies have shown that minerals especially trace minerals, are decreasing in our foods due to mineral depletion in the soil. This has therefore warranted formulation of supplemental minerals to cover up for the gap.
Who Needs Vitamin and mineral Supplements?
You are a likely candidate of vitamin and mineral supplements if your diets lack any of the 40+ nutrients needed for good body health. In general, the below groups can greatly benefits from these supplements, but they need to consult a registered dietitian or doctor when deciding if they need the supplements, or when choosing the types of supplements.
• Lactating and Pregnant women
• Vegans and some people on temporary vegetarian diets.
• Anyone on a low calorie diet (unintentional and intentional)
• Certain disease conditions (including those with a history of cancer)
• People who limit food groups or food varieties
• People under certain medications
• Teenager and children with irregular eating habits
• People with eating disorders
• Anyone with a poor diet
• People who often eat fast and processed food.
Natural vs. Organic supplements.
Many people think natural’ and organic’ are interchangeable. They are not. Natural supplements are supplements derived from plants for their beneficial medicinal value. However, such plants can be grown using chemical or organic means. So this means not all natural supplements are necessarily organic.
On the other hand, organic supplements are derived from organic food sources. They have no chemicals or additives. They are prepared using only organic means and can sometimes have certain ingredients from animal sources.