In the modern world where we are all obsessed with health and fitness the subject of taking supplements or vitamins has come to prominence. We all want to have that gym-honed physique but often don’t have the motivation to actually put the leg work in. Maybe we feel that our diet is lacking in certain nutrients whether down to lifestyle choices like vegetarianism or veganism or due to underlying medical factors such as diabetes or thyroid problems. Whatever your motivation it is clear that there has been a huge increase in the consumption of supplements but the big question is whether they actually make you healthier or do more harm than good? Here we will take a look at the arguments for and against taking supplements and look at the pros and cons.
Benefits of supplements
Normally it would be safe to assume that we can get all the nutrients we require from a balanced diet, and this has certainly been the traditionally held point of view. For a healthy individual who exercises regularly, this is certainly so. However, it is not true in all cases. Many people have an underlying condition that requires extra nutrients to control such as cancer, diabetes, diarrhea, or anemia. What a supplement can do is provide small doses of all the vitamins that the body needs so that these groups of people can benefit without the need to change their diet. Often it would not be practical to consume the food levels required to cover a certain deficiency such as a lack of iron. Lifestyle choices may also preclude a vegetarian from eating steak, so there are huge benefits to these groups of people.
Which supplements can make you healthier?
Sometimes supplements can be taken not because a person already knows they have an underlying problem but because they want to prevent a problem occurring in the future. If your GP diagnoses you with anemia it makes perfect sense to combat this by taking iron supplements. However, it is known through clinical studies that large doses of vitamin B3, or niacin, can help raise good levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Talking to experts at Integrative Therapeutics will allow you to discover which supplements may be best for your circumstances, and make you healthier. If you are thinking of having children you may want to increase your consumption of folic acid as studies have shown that this will combat the risk of a birth defect called Spina Bifida.
The medical community is split between the pros and cons of taking supplements. One argument is that for normal healthy people they should be able to achieve all the nutrients that their body needs by following a balanced diet. However, as we have seen above this is not always possible if you have an underlying condition. If you rely on supplements your body will conversely lack some of the essential compounds it needs like fiber which is vital for the digestive system. Many supplements are also taken on an empty stomach and some fat-soluble vitamins will not be absorbed as they would be if they were received through a normal diet that contains fat.
Are there any risks?
One of the main risks is the fact that supplements aren’t as heavily regulated as pharmaceutical drugs are. Manufacturers are not required to prove that they are either safe or effective. This gives rise to cowboy manufacturers of certain supplements such as weight loss aids, sexual performance enhancers, and multivitamins targeted at bodybuilders. You have no idea of exactly what you are taking or whether it will work, and yet often these types of supplements can cost an arm and a leg. Manufacturers will also make misleading claims to reel people in such as stating your immune system will be boosted, when in fact there is no evidence to suggest it. Another risk is the fact that many supplements contain far too high a dose, which can lead to your internal organs struggling to cope.
As we have seen there are two different schools of thought when it comes to whether supplements make you healthier. The first is that if you are a healthy human being there is no reason to take them if you follow a well-balanced diet and that, conversely, they may do you more harm than good as you often don’t know exactly what you are taking, or are at risk of an overdose. The other school holds that supplements can be used to prevent the onset of future problems such as Spina Bifida and that they are necessary for people with underlying medical conditions or who, due to lifestyle choices, cannot gain the nutrients their body needs from their diet.