Dietary supplements have become more common in Western cultures in recent years. However, in some countries such as Japan, they are used extensively and people often shun them as “uppers.” Although dietary supplements are commonly used, there is some debate about their effectiveness. The best way to decide for yourself is to get the facts from unbiased sources. Here are a few things to consider about dietary supplements and possible side effects:
Although supplements are usually taken in capsule form, large doses of any nutrient can cause adverse effects. Dietary supplements, particularly large doses of multivitamin and multimineral, don’t always guarantee full protection from disease. Many people are left wondering how to obtain necessary vitamins and other minerals, as an array of different options are available, such as whole food, vitamins and multivitamins. It is also important to consider that supplements can boost your nutrient intake, which may not lead to any health benefit.
One dietary supplement that is growing in popularity is “elements activated.” These contain ingredients like probiotics, digestive enzymes, prebiotics (an advantage because prebiotics keep the population of beneficial bacteria low) and other nutrients that naturally increase the amount of the vitamins and other nutrients your body needs. However, the ingredients are generally manufactured in “acidic” environments, which means that they are designed to kill off all bacteria in the stomach before the ingredients are absorbed. Because of this, people using these products must be careful about what they ingest, especially if they take medications such as antibiotics.
Another consideration is absorption rates. Most dietary supplements are fast to absorb, but others take time to do so. Some take longer, because of the process by which they are formulated. The slower rate of absorption prevents people from feeling dependent on them, which can lead to “doctor shopping.” This means buying vitamins you don’t need, just so you will keep taking them.
Dietary supplements that work faster generally have fewer adverse effects. This is because supplement manufacturers use sterile equipment to insert the active ingredients and process the liquids for absorption. In some cases, increased absorption is a side effect. If you are taking an antioxidant supplement to prevent cancer or decrease the likelihood of cataracts, a fast supplement may not be the best choice, because it is less effective in those areas.
One concern for the public has been regarding long-term use of dietary supplements and the risks associated with their use. Long-term use has been linked to certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers. However, there are no research studies that prove these claims. Most of the available research on folic acid supplements shows a decreased risk of certain types of cancers in pregnant women, although this benefit decreases as the pregnancy progresses.
Dietary supplements are not marketed as foods. They are only sold as supplemental nutrition. Many of these are sold under brand names that are “friendly”, but the manufacturers do not label the vitamins as foods. The reason they don’t is to avoid trademark infringement. Brand names are very expensive to get, and they also face stiff competition from generic versions of the same dietary supplements.
There are no serious adverse health reactions to consuming dietary supplements, but you should never take more than you should. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement program. You should also read the directions on the package and look for any warning labels. Be sure to check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) before purchasing dietary supplements to make sure the company does not have a long list of unresolved claims.