Friday, March 12, 2010

All about Nutrition Supplements

There are dime-a-dozen nutritional supplements available in the market-but how many of us know what they are and who should/need to take them? Here are a few FAQ’s about supplements:
What are Nutrition supplements?
Any product that provides some sort of nutrients (for e.g vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fibre, etc) can be termed as a ‘nutrition/dietary supplement’. They are sold in the form of tablets, powders, gels, syrups, etc. They can be used to supplement your normal diet, but cannot and should not be used as a substitute for a regular diet.

Who needs/should take supplements?
Those who eat a balanced diet and are healthy need not worry about supplements in normal circumstances. However, here is a list of reasons why one might require supplementation:
• Illness, hospitalization that interferes with regular food consumption,
• The elderly-who cannot eat regular foods in the recommended amounts,
• Deficiency diseases- like anaemia(iron deficiency), osteoporosis(calcium deficiency), night blindness(Vitamin A), etc.
• Those who live in areas where there is a deficiency of some nutrients for e.g those who live in hilly areas can have iodine deficiency, or those who do not get adequate sunlight (at least 10mins/day) can suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.
• Pregnancy and lactation-are phases that require additional nutrients more than what can be got from the diet alone and hence need to be supplemented(e.g :iron, calcium, folic acid),
• Any medical condition that affects how your body can absorb/excrete certain nutrients(like food intolerance, diseases of the kidney, gallbladder, intestine, etc).

How does one know if nutritional supplements are required and in what quantities?
If you have a doubt, speak to your doctor and/or Dietitian. They are the best people to determine whether you require supplements and the appropriate dosages if required.

Keep in mind that the body absorbs nutrients better in its natural form (from fruits, vegetables), so don’t be tempted to buy nutritional supplements unnecessarily!

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