In a survey published by the International Food Information Council and the American Heart Foundation in 2019, 43 percent of respondents claimed to be always on the lookout for healthier food options when shopping. Fifty-two percent of those who were surveyed said they do it occasionally. This survey proves that Americans are increasingly becoming health conscious.
With this knowledge in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 80 percent of Americans take dietary supplements to improve their overall health and well-being. These were the findings of the CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements in 2021. Since dietary supplements first became available in the 1940s, the demand for these supposedly magical pills shows no signs of going down.
WHAT ARE DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines dietary supplements as products that are intended to add or supplement one’s diet and come in forms that are different from conventional food. Dietary supplements are manufactured to help you improve or maintain your overall health and meet your nutritional daily requirements.
WHAT DO STATISTICS SAY ABOUT DIETARY SUPPLEMENT USAGE?
To give you a better understanding of the prevalence of dietary supplement usage in the United States, here is a summary of the result of the 2021 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements:
- Four out of five Americans use dietary supplements.
- 68% of supplement users exercise regularly.
- 83% of supplement users try to eat a balanced diet.
- 78% of supplement users visit their doctor regularly.
- 70% of supplement users regularly get a good night’s sleep.
- 68% of supplement users maintain a healthy weight.
- 44% of users take supplements to boost their overall health.
SHOULD YOU START TAKING DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS?
Today, you can find dietary recommendations everywhere—from commercial advertisements to word of mouth by family and friends. With all the information about them, it can be hard to choose which supplement is the right one for you, if there is one at all. Before you start taking one, be mindful of the reminders below.
- Dietary supplements come in many kinds and forms.
Dietary supplements can come in many forms, which include tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, bars, gummies, and liquids. Generally, they can be bought in any drugstore. Regardless of the form they take, their main goal remains the same—to supplement your diet so you will get enough nutrients for the day and enhance your health in the long term.
A dietary supplement must contain at least one dietary ingredient. The most common examples include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes. However, the most popular supplements are those that come in a multivitamin form.
Aside from the basic vitamins and minerals that we know of, other common dietary ingredients include fish oil, echinacea, ginseng, garlic, St. John’s wort, and green tea.
- Dietary supplements can benefit your overall well-being, but only to a certain extent.
Per the National Institutes of Health, some dietary supplements can help you get enough amounts of essential nutrients if your diet lacks them, but they can’t take the place of nutritious foods. Some of the common dietary supplements that may benefit your well-being include:
- Vitamin B12 – helps keep nerves and blood cells healthy, contributes to DNA formation, and prevents anemia.
- Folic Acid – reduces the risk of birth defects when taken by pregnant women.
- Vitamin D – strengthens bones.
- Calcium – promotes bone health.
- Vitamin C and E – are known powerful antioxidants that prevent cell damage.
- Fish Oil – supports heart health.
- Vitamin A – helps slow down vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration.
- Zinc – promotes skin health and helps slow down vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration.
- Melatonin – helps counteract jet lag and promotes quality sleep.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – promote heart health.
- Dietary supplements are generally safe, but not all the time.
Dietary supplements aren’t likely to pose any health risks, especially when they are taken properly. However, anything that you put inside your body must be dealt with caution. Some supplements are known to interact with other medications and may pose risks for individuals with certain medical conditions like liver disease. Those who are planning to have surgery are generally advised to take a break from some supplements and OTC medications.
Here are some examples of dietary supplements and the risks they may pose:
- Vitamin K – can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners.
- Vitamin E – can increase the risk of bleeding for surgery patients.
- Gingko – can increase blood thinning.
- St. John’s Wort – can reduce the efficacy of some drugs like antidepressants and birth control pills.
- Comfrey and Kava – these herbal supplements can damage the liver.
- Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A – can increase the risk of lung cancer for smokers.
- Consult your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement.
Be sure to speak with your primary healthcare provider before taking any supplement. The effectiveness and safety of dietary supplements will greatly depend on your current health condition, and only a healthcare professional can provide you with that information. They can also advise you on which supplements might be beneficial for you.
Furthermore, don’t forget to follow these simple tips when taking dietary supplements:
- Follow the label and your healthcare provider’s instructions strictly when taking dietary supplements.
- Learn more about the dietary supplement you’re taking by checking the ingredients, possible drug interactions, and percent daily value (% DV).
- Claims such as “completely safe” and “works better than (prescription drug)” should be taken with a grain of salt.
- Remember: “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe”.
- Observe proper handling and storage of your dietary supplements and keep them away from children’s reach.
As stated multiple times in this article, dietary supplements are meant to be supplementary. They can’t replace nutrient-dense, healthy meals. Dietary supplements enhance the health benefits you get from a well-rounded diet. As long as they are taken properly and under the guidance of healthcare professionals, dietary supplements can help you achieve your health goals.
For more information about dietary supplements, feel free to speak with our pharmacist. Just drop by our retail pharmacy in Martinsville, Virginia.
Cavalier Pharmacare offers a wide range of retail services so we can cater to all your needs.