The CNN reports of 2011 and consumer statistics suggests that over 55% of entire US adult population consume some type of nutritional supplements (most common being multi vitamins). It is a fact that over the past few years, the nutritional quality of food has suffered a great deal. Most of the food that is available to us is highly processed or refined (and since most of the essential vitamins and minerals are lost in the food refining process, the nutrient quality is extremely poor). In addition, there are a number of other factors too; for example:
Nutrient deficient soil and variable composition of different micronutrients at different places
The nutrient quality of food is obtained from soil; however, due to excessive use of chemicals, fertilizers and other cultivating techniques, the top shelf of soil is deficient in a number of nutritional supplements.
Research conducted by Zdenko Rengel (1) suggested that certain areas of the soil are inherently deficient to zinc or zinc deficiency eventually developed as part of the unhealthy and unnatural cultivation practices. In addition, Rengel also indicated that zinc deficient- soil not only increases the risk of developing zinc deficiency in individuals but also affect the micro-nutrient concentration of several minerals like;
- A great net uptake or absorption of micronutrients like Copper, Manganese, Boron, Phosphorous and Potassium.
- A likely risk to develop iron deficiency.
Variability in the intake of different foods in different subsets of population
Most health conscious people (like athletes) avoid high carbohydrate or lipid foods, likewise those who have a certain type of metabolic disorder (like diabetes, hypertension) or other type of health disorders are bound to consume or certain type of nutrition (thereby limiting or totally avoiding the intake of a one or more types of nutrients (macro- or micro). Same is true for elderly and children who consume a diet that may lack many essential vitamins and minerals. Obviously, these individuals require exogenous supplementation to avoid micro-nutrient deficiency.
How to choose the best supplements?
We all require some type of nutritional or supplemental support based on the metabolic, physiological pathological and nutritional requirements of the body. However, it is noteworthy that
All of us don't need all types of nutritional supplements
This suggests that you have to be a little “choosy” if you are looking to get a nutritional supplement for yourself. Choice of nutrients is dependent on your nature of diet, overall physical health, physical and metabolic requirements and presence of absence of some disorders that may affect the absorption of nutrients (like celiac disease or lower gut inflammatory disorders affect the production or absorption of Vitamin B12, Iron and other nutrients). Overall choose a supplement that supply “just- the right” amount of nutrients to optimize help without increasing the risk of toxicity.
The dosage and dosing frequency is different in different individuals and in the same individual at different points of life
The requirements and dose vary at different points in life for example vitamin A supplementation should be avoided when you are looking to become pregnant due to risk of possible fetal anomalies. Similarly, the significance of normal vitamin D levels is optimum in growing children due to risk of dwarfism and other growth discrepancies.
Certain Supplements require more frequent monitoring than others because of low therapeutic index, nature of supplementation and metabolism
Over 40% of entire US population consumes multivitamins on routine basis; but there are still a few micronutrients that are reportedly deficient in general population like Vitamin C. Similarly, a few micronutrients are stored by the human body in liver and so toxic doses are generally not needed. Generally, all fat soluble vitamins should be consumed in optimal doses only. Any supplement that is providing you more than double the recommended daily allowance should be avoided.
Do not choose the formulations that contain harmful supplements
According to the repots of ConsumerReports.org, there are a number of nutritional supplements that are ideally not safe for health, growth and well- being due to minor or severe disruption of normal metabolic pathways. Although, in many countries, these nutritional supplements are sold and are also included in the best selling supplements (in varying degrees or as a minor ingredient), most healthcare providers does not approve of these herbs. A few include kava, lobelia, comfrey, country mallow, bitter orange, aconite, colloidal silver and yohimbe.
Choose organic supplements and ignore the formulations that contain artificial preservatives or coloring agents
You may find colorful pills with extensive shelf- life, but are these supplements really healthy for you? Indeed not!! This is mainly because the chemicals undergo chamges after cross- reacting with sun-light, temperature changes and other alterations in the physical environment to form toxins. As much possible, try to choose supplements that are all- natural or organic.
Rengel, Z., & Graham, R. D. (1995). Importance of seed Zn content for wheat growth on Zn-deficient soil. Plant and Soil, 173(2), 259-266.