Americans have embraced taking dietary supplements, whether or not the government condones the practice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that over one-half of U.S. Adults take at least one supplement. These supplements include multi vitamin/multi mineral supplements that may compensate for dietary deficiencies.
People may also take supplements to prevent certain conditions or to self-medicate. The American Botanical Council estimates that Americans spent over $5 billion on herbal supplements in 2016. The fact that the FDA does not conduct pre-market testing is no deterrent.
Dietary supplements can serve several useful purposes in certain individuals. Those who do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, for example, may be lacking in several important nutrients. The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” identified several nutrients of concern, including potassium and vitamin D. In the case of these two nutrients, deficiencies may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Individuals taking medication such as diuretics may also be at risk of deficiencies. A potassium deficiency, for example, may heighten a person’s risk of developing a calcium deficiency as well due to potassiums effects on the hormone that regulates calcium.
Benefits of Taking Dietary Supplements
Special Population Groups
Some populations groups may benefit from taking dietary supplements because of their individual physiology or diet. Vegans, for example, may not get sufficient vitamin B12 in their diet due to the fact that it is found primarily in animal-based sources.
Likewise, older individuals may experience a decline in their bodies ability to absorb some nutrients from food. Vitamin B12 is a classic example. People who are home-bound may develop vitamin D deficiencies because of the lack of sun exposure. In these cases, a dietary supplement compensates for deficiencies in these important nutrients.
The same precautions apply to pregnant women. Deficiencies in nutrients such as folic acid and vitamin D can increase the risk for developmental disorders in the growing fetus. The body’s demand for these nutrients is greater under these circumstances.
At-Risk Population Groups
Pre-existing conditions make dietary supplements a good choice for at-risk individuals. Alcoholics may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Other people such as celiac disease patients may not absorb adequate amounts of nutrients from their diet due to small intestine damage.
Another risk exists with aging individuals. Women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may offer an effective preventive to ensure bone density.
Dietary Supplement Guide
Anyone on prescription medication or with a pre-existing condition should consult their doctor before taking a dietary supplement. The combination of supplements and prescription medications may carry dangerous health consequences in some cases.
For example, garlic and fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding in individuals taking blood thinners. Other supplements may interfere with the actions of other drugs. Magnesium supplements may reduce the effectiveness of certain types of antibiotics.
With the proper precautions, a person can benefit from taking supplements that address risk factors for developing chronic health conditions. The matter, however, is a personal one that an individual and her doctor must decide.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.