Food supplements, are they useful?

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Increasingly we find a host of products listed as food supplements that promise to cover the deficit of essential nutrients in our diet. Discover if you really need them and when to consume them.

In the market we find a wide variety of products encompassed within the so-called “food supplements” whose purpose is to complement the daily diet. With them, the contribution of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins (amino acids), omega 3 fatty acids and fiber, among others, is favored, but evidently they cannot replace a healthy diet at any time. A balanced diet adapted to the needs of each person covers the nutritional requirements of the healthy population.

When is the use of food supplements justified?

The recommendation of a nutritional supplement is justified especially when, after the evaluation of clinical tests and eating habits, there is evidence of a deficient diet and a low intake of one or more vitamins and / or minerals. Although there are also population groups whose requirements are increased in some stages of life or in specific situations. Some of these are:

  • Food supplements for pregnancy. During this period it is recommended to take folic acid to ensure its contribution and avoid neural tube defects, because this vitamin participates in the formation of genetic material.
  • Food supplements for iron deficiency anemia. Its treatment is based on the oral administration of iron; and although the cause is usually a diet poor in iron, it can also be due to menstrual losses, chronic hemorrhages that go unnoticed, or insufficient absorption due to diseases that affect the intestinal integrity.
  • Food supplements for vegetarians. Another case in which a nutritional supplement of vitamin B12 is advised is in vegetarianism, both in vegans (which exclude all food of animal origin) and in Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (who take dairy products and eggs).
  • Food supplements for athletes. In the world of sports, especially in the professional field, there is a large consumption of nutritional supplements. In intense exercise the requirements are increased and there is an important muscular wear. These are products designed for the athlete in order to meet special needs. There is a wide variety, and within the types of supplements, are those that provide vitamins and minerals, and ergogenic nutritional aids, which are those that can improve performance.

Nutritional supplements, only when needed

There may be other conditions or conditions in which supplementation is also contemplated; the problem arises when it is taken without any foundation. It is very frequent to go quickly to the purchase of a multivitamin before the minimum sensation of fatigue and lack of energy, or look for a food supplement that helps us improve the memory or the immune system. And they are products that attract attention, and it is easy to get carried away by their popularity and more when they are related to the promotion of health. This interest increases when they are attributed a benefit that goes beyond mere nutritional support as is the case of functional foods.

Anyway, when a person really follows an unbalanced and deficient diet, it is advisable that a health professional who, after an assessment of the case, determines if it is necessary to add a nutritional supplement. Do not forget that these are concentrated sources of nutrients and, therefore, an excessive intake of certain nutrients, rather than helping, may even have an undesirable effect.

Therefore, the conclusion is that nutritional supplements should be taken when they are really needed, not hastily and with the intention of obtaining an immediate and even “magical” benefit.

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