Do I need to take dietary supplements?

20 Feb


According to the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, a dietary supplement is a product that contains an ingredient that is swallowed with the aim of adding nutritional value to our diet. These products have become popular in our society as part of the quest to improve our health and prevent diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular conditions.
Commercially available supplements can be found in many different forms: tablets, capsules, liquid form, powder, or in soft capsules, and offers consumers ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and antioxidants.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not approve the supplements before they reach the market, unless it is clear that they contain an ingredient that is harmful to our health. This agency intervenes if it finds that the supplement has caused damage. For a long time, the vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, and calcium, have been widely recommended as some of the supplements required in our diet to try to improve our health. Antioxidants are another dietary ingredient that has gained popularity, because some studies have shown that they can contribute to the body’s ability to defend itself against some harmful elements like sunlight, cigarette smoke and other chemicals. However, it is crucial that before you start taking any type of supplement, you check with your doctor to explore the potential benefits or contraindications of the supplements that you think you may need.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine provides important information that helps support the idea that taking dietary supplements might not be necessary unless there is a case of malnutrition or might cause more harm than good. The study that was conducted in Sweden, in animals with cancer and in human cancer cells in laboratory, found that by adding similar amounts of vitamin E, such as those found in supplements, the cells grew more quickly, and the animals died sooner than the ones in the control group. Similarly there is also evidence that beta-carotene is contraindicated for patients with lung cancer. The results of these studies does not indicate that the supplements should not be used, but reiterate the importance of future research on the possible effects of the supplements in our health and help us to be vigilant with regard to the excessive use of these products. These studies have not determined that consuming foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables is contraindicated.

Considering these findings, the American Cancer Society confirmed its recommendation that we should prefer a plant-based diet that includes at least two and a half cups of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods rather than processed foods daily. The interaction of these healthy foods seems to have a much more beneficial effect than supplements alone could provide. Our body absorbs vitamins and minerals more efficiently when they come from the food we eat, that when they come from the supplements that we buy in the market. If you have questions about this topic, you should consult with your trusted doctor, dietician or pharmacist before you begin a diet that includes supplements without a prescription.


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