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Dietary supplements

What are dietary supplements? Dietary supplements are taken orally and contain “a dietary ingredient” that works to supplement the diet. This dietary ingredient could include one or more nutrients such as herbs, vitamins, amino acids, botanicals, minerals and some other substances such as organ tissues, glandular enzymes and metabolites. These dietary supplements can be consumed as a pill, tablet, capsule, or a bar and as soft gels, liquids, and gel caps. They could also be concentrates or extracts. Regardless, no matter what form they are in, it is necessary that they are labeled as dietary supplements on the front panel.

Dietary supplements fall under the general category of “foods” and not as “drugs.” Hence, it becomes very difficult to determine the quality of these supplements as this depends on a number of factors such as the manufacturer and supplier.  

Why do we need dietary supplements? Diet supplements are taken for a number of reasons.  Some people use them to treat medical conditions, while others use them when certain illnesses or conditions restrict the intake of important vitamins and nutrients. In addition, some people use them as energy boosters or to help them get good sleep at night. Some women who are in the postmenopausal stage generally use them to take care of the sudden drop in their estrogen levels.   

Types of dietary supplements. There are different types of dietary supplements available. These can range from simple nutritional supplements to weight loss or bodybuilding supplements. Here is a list of dietary supplements that are available in the market and their benefits.

  1. Vitamin B Complex: This is a broad term for all vitamins that are water-soluble except for vitamin C. It includes  vitamins such as thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin (vitamin B3), riboflavin (vitamin B2), cobalamins (vitamin B12), pyridoxine(vitamin B6), folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and biotin. These vitamins help in producing energy and increase your metabolic rate.
  2. Calcium: Calcium is an essential mineral, and it is found in your bones and teeth. Some functions of this supplement include transmitting nerve cell signals, blood clotting and muscle contraction.
  3. Co Q10: The energy required by your body to perform its task is provided by Co Q10. It helps protect you against the free radicals that can cause damage to your muscles. 
  4. Chondroitin and Glucosamine: These supplements are the backbone of the connective tissues that are important parts of the joints. They help in treating ostheoarthritis. 
  5. Iron: This is an important mineral that ensures that oxygen circulates through the body and is used.
  6. Multi vitamin-mineral supplements: These dietary supplements are an easy way of ensuring that you take different types of nutrients in one product. The disadvantage in taking these is that they contain both necessary and unnecessary nutrients.   
  7. Vitamin C: This vitamin guards you against heart diseases, produces collagen and helps to heal wounds.
  8. Vitamin A: This vitamin helps improve your vision, assists in normal cell production, and also plays an important role in the reproductive function among other things. 
  9. Soy: Soy provides essential amino acids and is cholesterol and fat free.   

Word of caution. Dietary supplements are not simply food substitutes, and taking them does not mean that you can neglect your overall diet. They do not contain all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are found in whole food. These supplements should be used to complement your daily meals in case you have a problem getting sufficient nutrients. That said; it is okay to take these supplements as long as you have researched them are convinced about their safety and efficiency. Care has to be taken while taking these supplements as certain products work for some and can pose an unexpected risk to others. Some products contain active ingredients, which when combined with some other medicines can be extremely harmful.  It is therefore very important that you inform your health professional about any supplements you are taking.



Submitted on January 17, 2014