One of the most commonly asked questions we hear at 121 Dietitian is “What supplements should I be taking?” With this in mind, Director and Principal Dietitian Gillian Killiner discusses the topic of supplements and who should be taking what.
It might surprise you to learn that the term ‘dietary supplement’ actually applies to a wide group, including; vitamins, herbs, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, protein drinks, sport aids, weight loss pills, anti aging tonics etc.
According to a report in Optimum Nutrition Magazine, the nutritional supplement market in the UK in 2016 was valued at £431 million and this is expected to double in the next 5 years.
People in the U.K. take dietary supplements for a variety of different reasons. Athletes and bodybuilders may take supplements to gain performance improvements and to bulk up. Others take supplements to get protein and vitamins into their diets as part of an overall focus on a healthier lifestyle.
Pregnant and lactating women may take dietary supplements to provide enough nutrients to support their growing babies. Children from ages six months to five years may be given supplements to make certain that they are getting enough vitamins while they are growing. The government recommends that children in this age group are given supplements of vitamins A, C and D.
People also take dietary supplements to help lose weight, while older adults take supplements to help to maintain their health as they age.
This sounds and is, for the main part, acceptable. When supplements are advised and taken correctly, they can enhance an individual’s health and thus improve life outcomes and I am all for this when following an expert’s advice. However, this needs to be after a full health assessment.
What is most worrying is that I find frequently in my clinical practice individuals taking supplements for several years or maybe longer and they really have no idea the quality of the supplement they are taking (often cheap shop brand) the quantity of the ingredient dose they are taking and the risks associated with this or on the reverse that they might not be absorbing the ingredients at all.
Sadly, I have had several patients who have significant liver damage as a direct result of high dose supplementation taken for an extended period of time.
Truth be told, I am a supplement nerd and I am meticulous in sourcing the correct therapeutic supplements for each individual based on their; health, lifestyle, age, sex, metabolic status and most importantly, blood test results.
The supplements that I select are chosen because they have:
- No nasty chemicals which can often trigger additional issues with gut/skin health.
- Selected for optimal dosage and from natural sources so the body can absorb them easily.
- Purest for no toxicity.
- Dose administered to assist their optimal absorption.
- If using several supplements they are introduced over time to monitor for any reactions.
During the time a patient is with me, bloods and symptoms are monitored to ensure health is assisted and the supplements taken for the correct time frame at the correct dose.
So where does that leave you?
For those of you that do supplement:
- Do remember you can’t expect supplements to take care of a bad diet or lifestyle – research has proven this to be more harmful.
- If you take supplements please do consider there are positives and negatives to these and be aware that they could be unnecessary, toxic or just making expensive urine!
- Don’t mix food supplements and medicines.
- Some food supplements can interact with medicines. So if you are taking any medication, seek advice from either a GP or dietitian.
Your body is like a finely tuned engine of a car – all the parts have to work in harmony to ensure you are in top gear. Too much or too little of anything and your won’t be firing on all cylinders!
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