Dietary and Health Supplements–How To Use Them Wisely

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Nutrition and Supplements

What are Dietary Supplements?
Dietary supplements are intended to give nutrients that are deficient or missing in a person’s diet. Some of the very important yet common nutritional supplements include amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals.

Different countries classify these health supplements either as foods or drugs. However, based on the United Nations’ food standards authority, supplements that contain vitamins and minerals are classified as food. Meanwhile, the United States considers dietary supplements to include a broader variety of supplements than that of the UN definition.

Some of the effective uses of dietary supplements focus on the prevention or treatment of diseases. For instance, it has been found that folic acid is a vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, zinc slows down the progress of age-related diseases of the eye, calcium and vitamin D helps prevent and treat bone loss and osteoporosis. Some researches suggest that diet supplements like omega3 fatty acids are helpful in preventing and/or treating coronary disease. However, additional researches must still be made before any final conclusions can be given.

Another type of diet supplement is called as herbal supplement. From its name, it is obvious that the ingredients used to make it come from plants or plant parts such as leaves, seeds, or flowers. It is often used for different purposes, but is known for its therapeutic wonders. It may contain just one or a combination of several herbs.

Wise Use of Dietary Supplements
In the effort of people to be in the best of their health always, dietary supplements have been enjoying a wide patronage and sky-rocketing sales statistics. However, considering the varieties of health supplements in the market today with their varied claims of health benefits, deciding which ones are safe and effective has become a tough task. Thus, the following points or reminders would certainly be of great help in making the right choice.

• Extra care must be made before using diet supplements since federal regulations as regards these products are quite lax when compared to over-the-counter and prescription drugs. In fact, dietary supplements are marketed even without having the manufacturer prove its safety and effectiveness.

• Before using a health supplement, always read the label for instructions. It is good practice to seek reliable sources that have information about the product before buying it. Results of a scientific testing are usually a good source of reliable information.

You can ask your doctor or your health care provider about the right dosage to take. If they are not familiar with a particular diet supplement, at least they could give you medical guidance on the uses and risks of the health supplement. This way, you could avoid the likelihood of bad side-effects when you use them together with your existing medications. What’s worse, there might even be a tendency that they contain some ingredients that are not listed on the label.

These precautions are very relevant especially when having a surgery, planning a pregnancy, or nursing your child. Always contact your doctor or health care provider when experiencing any side effects and immediately suspend using the dietary supplement.