What are dietary supplements?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines dietary supplements as products which are or which contain vitamins, dietary elements, herbs or medicinal plants, amino acids, concentrates or extracts, or a combination of these ingredients. Dietary supplements are ingested orally and are intended to be used in addition to one’s diet rather than in substitution of regular meals. These products are labeled specifically as dietary supplements in the market. They are classified by the FDA as a type of food, not a type of drug; therefore, the responsibility of checking the quality of dietary supplements falls on the manufacturer and not the government. At present, dietary supplements are used by more than half of the US adult population, with multi-vitamins being the most common.
How Dietary Supplements Help Us
1. Ideally, we should be able to depend on a regular balanced diet to give us all the necessary nutrients for our body to remain healthy. However, our diet is often incomplete, which means we don’t get the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals, making us prone to various health issues. This is where dietary supplements come into play; they help us reach the recommended micro-nutrient levels without having to spend time and money on planning healthy meals. It is much simpler to take a few supplement tablets than to try and eat all the foods that contain those micro-nutrients.
2. Also, people may suffer from certain health conditions which cause nutritional insufficiencies or deficiencies. In this regard, dietary supplements present an convenient solution; conditions such as iron deficiencies are easily treated with iron supplements. Scientific research has proved that certain dietary supplements help in better general health and aid in management of some health conditions. For example, Folic acid helps in decreasing the risks of a birth defect called spina bifida; Calcium and Vitamin D are necessary for maintaining bone strength and reducing the loss of bone mass; Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils help in prevention and management of heart diseases.
3. Dietary supplements are regularly used by competitive and professional athletes to improve their performance, because even a small change in this performance can influence competition results. Older people in the 50 and above age bracket use dietary supplements to sustain bone and joint strength. Apart from the above, dietary supplements have proved popular with the general population due to the quick fix they provide in our fast-paced lives. In particular, dietary supplements which help in keeping hair, skin and nails healthy, are very in-demand because working people typically do not have the time to follow an extensive hair- or skin-care routine.
4. Modern farming methods drain soil nutrients, leading to decreased mineral content which cannot yield nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Combined with reduction in nutrient quality due to long transit times and loss of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes due to overcooking food, there is a growing need for dietary supplements to be used by people as a part of their normal diet plan.