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What are supplements?
What are supplements? In general, supplements are intended to deliver dietary ingredients to satisfy organism’s daily demands. According to the definition, they cannot serve as a food replacement, they need to be administrated orally and they need to be labeled as a dietary supplement. Nowadays, dietary supplements include ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, fiber, herbs and other substances that supply human organism. It needs to be remembered, that they are not drugs and are not intended to treat or prevent diseases.
Dietary supplements pros and cons
So what are supplements and what are they responsible for? Important nutrients are often not delivered from food in suitable amounts. Dietary supplements are great for replenishing those deficiencies. They can improve overall body functioning and may reduce the risk of many diseases. For instance, vitamin D or calcium deficiency often leads to bones weakening, folic acid intake can prevent neural tube defects or miscarriage and zinc may reduce skin and muscles aging.
On the other side, inappropriate supplementation leads to several dangerous consequences. Many supplements contain ingredients which can be very active and may affect entire organism. The patient should be aware of possible side effects and consult with a specialist about adequate precautions. Dietary supplements are not intended to treat diseases and they can even interfere with certain drugs or therapies. Overdose can lead to dangerous conditions, for example excess of vitamin B3 can lead to permanent liver damage and some antioxidants may reduce effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Certain supplements can have possible side effects. Before taking any of them, the patient should contact healthcare professionals. The term “natural” does not equal “safe”, because some ingredients can be toxic, interfere with drugs or even put the patient at risk before, during or after surgery.
What is interesting, standards for supplements are less restrictive compared to drugs regulations. Their efficiency is not always clear, and some of them can be contaminated, thus they can lead to mild or severe toxicity. University of Helsinki found out, that approximately 90% of all supplements do not work as it has been suggested, and their ingredients are different from those on the label.
There are thousands of different types of supplements. They can include substances like vitamins, amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, fiber and herbs.
The most popular supplements are:
- Fish oil – it contains a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for human organism.
- Multivitamins – those supplements contain 3 or more vitamins and minerals and recommended dosage do not cause side effects.
- Vitamin D – this vitamin helps to maintain healthy and strong bones and can reduce the risk of some cardiovascular diseases. It is recommended especially in countries with weak sunlight.
- Coenzyme Q10 – one of the most popular supplement that has great effect on vitality. However, it can potentially interact with certain drugs. Medical advice is recommended before using.
- Calcium – this substance is important for strong and healthy bones and is profitable for cardiovascular and nervous system.
- Vitamin B complex – B vitamins are divided into 8 different types, and Vitamin B complex contain all of them. It’s deficiency leads to several disorders, that can affect entire body and leave permanent damage. Possible overdose side effects are fairly uncommon.