Dietary supplements have become a part of many people’s lives, who want to stay healthy and fit. There are many advertisements which proclaim the benefit of these supplements and many are tempted to take them. It is now known commonly is that dietary supplements can be harmful for health, and sometimes land people in the emergency ward. Why are dietary supplements not good for health? Let’s take a look.
Dietary supplements: what are they?
First, let’s get to know which substances are classified as supplements. Dietary supplements have ingredients such as minerals, vitamins, amino acids, herbs and enzymes. These supplements are sold in the form of capsules, tablets, gel caps, softgels, liquids and powders.
Supplement manufacturers market them as being useful for the body in supplementing vital substances required by the body to remain healthy or reduce disease risk. These supplements are not be used in place of a healthy diet. Supplements are also not permitted to advertise as being treatments for diseases, or for the purpose of preventing, diagnosing and curing diseases. For example, they should not be marketed as ‘lowers cholesterol’, or ‘used to treat heart disease’.
Why are dietary supplements not always good for health?
If the supplements are not prescribed by a doctor, then they could prove to be quite dangerous. This is because they contain certain active ingredients which do produce strong biological reactions in your body. This is why they are not always good for health, and may actually cause complications.
Weight loss supplements or calcium and vitamin supplements could turn out to be supplements that are bad for you. Sometimes, people tend to combine supplements with the advice of their doctor which may have serious consequences. It is dangerous to mix supplements with prescription drugs or over the counter medicines. You should also never substitute supplements for drugs which are prescribed to you.
Overdose of supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin A or iron supplements are obviously harmful. It’s also imperative to inform your doctor about any supplements you may be taking prior to surgery, or else it can cause complications.
What do the studies say?
According to a study which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that due to supplements causing adverse effects, 23,000 people have ended up in emergency care every year. This is a big figure, considering the fact that supplements are supposed to be harmless, nutritional products. The study was conducted over a period of 10 years, where researchers studied the information from 63 hospitals.
On an average, the age of the patients who had to be admitted in emergency care was found to be 32 years. Women were more than half of the total patients admitted. Over 10% patients had to be admitted to the hospital. Weight loss supplements accounted for 1 quarter of all single supplement emergency visits, disproportionately affecting women, and men seemed to suffer more from supplements advertised for body building and sexual enhancement.
It was revealed that even children under the age of 4 suffered from allergy reactions or from nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting due to accidental or unsupervised vitamin ingestion.
Which supplements that are bad for you?
Unless it is prescribed by the doctor, any supplement can turn out to be toxic for your body. Vitamin D deficiency is a global phenomenon as more and more people tend to spend long hours indoors while working or at home. In cities, the buildings are close together and improper planning leads to sunlight not reaching people. This causes Vitamin D deficiency and Vitamin D supplements are prescribed often.
Vitamin D as well as calcium supplements are bad when they are continued without supervision. Similarly, supplement side effects such as increase in heart rate, high BP, diarrhea, agitation, sleeplessness, liver damage, kidney problems and rectal bleeding, can result from supplements for weight loss, body building and so on.
What you should know before buying a supplement
The most important thing that you should know is that there is no approval or safety testing from the FDA or other such agencies to regulate supplements. The supplement manufacturer is not required to provide information on the packaging about the supplement side effects, nor is there any standard for the maximum size of the pill size (which is a risk for seniors).
Manufacturers are supposed to ensure that their product is safe before they launch it in the market. If any supplement contains any new ingredient/s, then the manufacturer has to notify the FDA about it. But the FDA will only review it and not approve or do any safety tests. Supplement manufacturers are also supposed to produce supplements of good quality which do not have any impurities and contaminants, and follow the cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) labeling instructions.
Supplements contain active ingredients, that is, molecules which interact at the receptors within the body, and cause physiological changes. This is why they can benefit the body when used within reason, and under supervision. But these active ingredients may cause some side effects such as increase in BP, dizziness and so on. This can happen when it is a single supplement or due to the combination of several supplements. You should never use supplement without consulting your doctor if you are on some kind of prescription drugs.
The disadvantages of supplements can be reduced if you use caution when you use them. According to another study, supplements can be a part of your multifaceted self-care regime, if your body is lacking in certain minerals, vitamins, amino acids and so on. Ask a nurse, pharmacist or doctor to review any supplement that you plan to take to be on the safer side.
If you face any serious reaction or other problem due to the intake of the supplement, then you are supposed to report it to the FDA, which can then recall the supplement from the market. You can file a complaint online through their Safety Reporting Portal, or contact the Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your region/area.
Do your research
Before purchasing any supplement, you should carefully read the labels to see if it includes the address and name of the manufacturer and distributor. Get in touch with the manufacturer to know more about the produce as well as the effectiveness and safety of the product. Use non-commercial websites such as FDA, NIH, USDA and find out about the product, rather than the seller websites, which would anyway have glowing reviews.
Be careful of tall claims, such as the product is better than some prescription drugs, has absolutely no side effects, or is totally natural.
Supplement your diet through food
For calcium, eat more of tofu, sardines, milk and yogurt, as well as orange juice. Folic acid is found in spinach, fortifies cereal and lentils. Iron is most abundant in chicken liver, turkey, oysters as well as in vegetables such as beetroot. Include flaxseed and salmon for Omega 3, fatty acids from walnuts and soybeans. Carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach and Vitamin B12 from trout, clams, cereals and so on.
Food contains a lot of nutrients as well as other substances which can never be found in supplement pills. Getting the vitamins and minerals, calcium and iron and the amino acids you need from food is better than swallowing a supplement. It has been seen that the body absorbs nutrients better when it is from food, rather than suffering from the disadvantages of supplements.