Dietary supplements (also called “nutritional supplements”, “nutritional supplements”, “food supplements”) are products that contain a “food ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. They are not presented as a substitute for a conventional food, nor as a single component of a meal or the diet.
As established by a law passed by the United States Congress in 1994, are those products that
They are consumed orally
Some applications of dietary supplements have scientifically based therapeutic indications. For example, folic acid prevents some birth defects, and a regimen of vitamins and zinc may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Other uses have not been scientifically proven to be effective. For example, an herbal formula that purportedly relieves arthritis pain; or vitamin C intake prevents or treats a cold, although the benefits of taking large amounts of vitamin C for this purpose have not been proven.
To reduce the risks of taking a dietary supplement it is advisable to consider the following:
Consult your doctor about the nutritional supplement for safety, to establish a comprehensive treatment plan. It is particularly important to consult your doctor if
you plan to replace your regular medical treatment with one or more supplements
you are taking any medications (prescription or over-the-counter). Some supplements are known to interact with medications.
you have a chronic disease or disorder.
you are awaiting surgery. Some supplements increase the risk of bleeding or interfere with anesthetics and pain medications.
are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You are considering giving a supplement to a child. Many products marketed as suitable for pediatric use have not been tested for safety and effectiveness in children.
Do not take a higher dose than indicated on the supplement’s label unless a physician recommends it.
If you experience any side effects, stop taking the supplement and contact your doctor.
If you are considering using herbal supplements, there are some precautions to consider.
Drug and supplement interaction
There are numerous interactions of dietary supplements with each other, and with drugs and foods. For example:
St. John’s wort may increase the effect of drugs used to treat depression. It can also interfere with drugs used to treat HIV infection, cancer, and drugs that prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs. They also affect the effectiveness of birth control methods.
Ginseng may increase the stimulant effects of caffeine (as do tea, soda, and coffee). It can also lower blood glucose levels, increasing the possibility of problems when taking diabetes medications.
Ginkgo, when taken with anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, may increase the risk of bleeding. It is also possible for ginkgo to interact with certain psychiatric medications and some medications that influence blood glucose levels.
Dietary supplements may contain gluten, flours, or other gluten-related products, which is important to consider for people with gluten-related disorders. Usually, reading the label is not enough to clarify whether the product contains gluten or traces of gluten.
Meaning of the word “natural” on a supplement label
There are many dietary supplements and prescription drugs that come from natural sources and are helpful and do not cause harm. However, “natural” does not always mean “safe” or “harmless. For example, in the case of wild mushrooms, while they are natural, some can be eaten without a problem and others are poisonous.
The FDA issues warnings about supplements that pose risks to consumers, including those used by alternative therapies. Because they can seriously damage your health, be contaminated with other herbs, pesticides, heavy metals, or off-label prescription drugs, or interact dangerously with some medications.
The U.S. federal government regulates supplements through the FDA. Currently, it does so according to standards for food and not for drugs. Generally, the laws for marketing food (and supplements) and keeping them on the market are less strict than the laws for drugs. Specifically:
The federal government also regulates advertising of supplements through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which requires that all information about supplements be true and not misleading to the consumer.
The contents of the bottle do not always match the label. It is possible that a supplement:
The Peruvian specialist in orthomolecular nutrition Rayner Calderon recommends that each person should take control of their own health, by acquiring information and education on health, nutrition, supplementation and orthomolecular medicine, and thus protect the health of their families and their own quality of life.
Many adults and children in the United States take one or more vitamins or other dietary supplements. In addition to vitamins, dietary supplements may contain minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other ingredients. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gums and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12; minerals such as calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.
Dietary Supplement Label
Products sold as dietary supplements come with a supplement information label that shows the active ingredients, the measurement per serving (dose), as well as other ingredients, such as fillers, fixatives and flavorings. The manufacturer suggests the serving size, but your health care provider may decide that a different amount is more appropriate for you.
Some dietary supplements can help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients if you don’t eat a variety of nutritious foods. However, supplements cannot replace the variety of foods that are important for a healthy diet. To learn more about what makes a healthy diet, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate external link disclaimer are good sources of information.
Some dietary supplements can improve overall health and help control some conditions. For example:
Calcium and vitamin D help keep bones strong and reduce bone loss.
Folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils may help some people with heart disease.
A combination of vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin (known as the AREDS formula) may slow vision loss in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Many other supplements need further study to determine if they have any value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine the effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed.
Safety and risks
Many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects on the body. You should always be aware of the possibility of a bad reaction, especially when taking a new product.
Dietary supplements are more likely to have side effects if you take them in high doses or instead of prescription drugs, or if you take many different supplements. Some supplements may increase the risk of bleeding or, if taken before surgery, may change your response to anesthesia. Supplements can also interact with some medications and may cause problems. Here are some examples:
Use caution when taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, use caution when giving supplements to a child unless recommended by your healthcare provider. The safety of many supplements has not been well proven among pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers or children.
If you think you have had a bad reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your health care provider. He or she can report your experience to the FDA. You can also send a report directly to the FDA by calling 800-FDA-1088 or by completing an online form. You should also report your reaction to the manufacturer using the contact information on the product label.
The FDA has established good manufacturing practices that companies must follow to help ensure the identity, purity, potency, and composition of their dietary supplements. These good manufacturing practices can prevent the addition of the wrong ingredient (or too much or too little of the right ingredient) and reduce the likelihood of contamination or incorrect packaging and labeling of a product. The FDA periodically inspects facilities that manufacture supplements.
Several independent organizations provide quality testing and allow products that pass these tests to display a quality assurance seal indicating that the product was manufactured properly, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful concentrations of contaminants. These seals do not guarantee that a product is safe or effective. Organizations that provide quality testing include:*
Please consult with your health care providers
Tell your health care providers (including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and dietitians) about any dietary supplements you are taking. They can help you determine which supplements, if any, might be valuable to you.
Keep a complete record of all dietary supplements and medications you take. The Office of Dietary Supplements website has this helpful form ¨Registro of my dietary supplements and medicamentos¨, which you can print out and complete at home. For each product, write down the name, the dose you take, how often you take it, and the reason you take it. You can share this record with your health care providers to discuss what is best for your overall health.
Drugs must be approved by the FDA before they can be sold or marketed. Supplements do not require this approval. Supplement companies are responsible for having proof that their products are safe and that label claims are not false or misleading. However, as long as the product does not contain a “new dietary ingredient” (any introduced since October 15, 1994), the company does not have to provide this proof of safety to the FDA before marketing the product.
Dietary supplement labels may include certain types of health-related claims. Manufacturers may claim, for example, that a supplement promotes health or supports a body function (such as immunity or heart health). These claims should be followed by the words: “This claim has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Manufacturers must follow good manufacturing practices to ensure the identity, purity, potency and composition of their products. If the FDA finds that a dietary supplement is unsafe, it may withdraw the product from the market or ask the manufacturer to voluntarily recall it.
FDA monitors the market for possible illegal products that may be unsafe or make false or misleading claims. The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees product advertising, also requires that information about a supplement product be truthful and not misleading.
The federal government can take legal action against companies and websites that sell dietary supplements when companies make false or misleading claims about their products, if they promote them as treatments or cures for diseases, or if their products are unsafe.
There are numerous situations in which it is necessary or may have numerous health benefits to take nutritional supplements. One of them I have already told you about, when there is a digestive problem or nutritional deficiency.
However, there are more situations that lend themselves to this. For example, I sometimes recommend it to patients with anorexia. Supplements can be a way to preserve a person’s health when they are not yet able to eat.
Another situation in which it may be necessary to take some kind of “extra” is the case of people who practice a lot of sports during the week. Sports practices such as cross fit or others are very healthy as long as they are done within a margin of flexibility.
However, they have the disadvantage that when we exercise at such a high level, oxidative stress is produced. This means that we “oxidize” minerals and vitamins, so that a situation of a certain food deficiency could occur.
In these cases, I usually recommend taking a vitamin supplement, but this sport supplement is not the typical one sold in bodybuilding stores. I will talk about this type of products in another article.
I am referring to food supplements based on an extra supply of minerals and vitamins. The objective is to protect many of the body’s functions, such as the immune system.
This type of supplementation can also be indicated in the case of people who are constantly low in energy.
Protein supplements may be advisable in some, as may occur in some diseases where it is necessary to recover tissue or when following some type of diet such as a vegan diet.
However, a person who follows a vegan style of eating does not have to be lacking in essential amino acids if he or she does it well. Supplementation with vitamin B12 is usually more necessary.
Other people decide to take protein supplements because they get a lot of physical exercise and/or want to increase their muscle mass. If this is your case, I recommend you read this article.
If you have reached this point in the article having read it carefully, you have probably realized that there is no point in talking about dietary supplements to lose weight.
The reason for this is that the supplement is aimed at filling a gap, not helping us lose weight. Besides, most of the dietary weight loss supplements sold to us are based on “wishful thinking”. For this reason, any type of diet that is based on the consumption of dietary supplements, I advise you to be strongly suspicious of it.
I take back the criticism against Herbalife: The distributors of this product do not have knowledge in nutrition and dietetics. They simply market a “shake” that says it will cover you nutritionally if you substitute it with food.
That shake is bullshit, and it doesn’t nearly cover a person’s nutritional needs. Will you lose weight? Sure, and if you stop eating too.
The best way to lose weight is to eat. By eating well and getting some exercise, you can do it. All miracle diets and remedies of this type, besides being unhealthy, do not work.
If you lose weight this way, what will happen to you after a while is that you will suffer a rebound effect that will make you recover everything you have gained.
What are the best dietary supplements to lose weight? Is there a dietary supplement to lose weight that we can take to help our process and make it a little easier?
Yes, but I want to make it clear that there is nothing you can take that will “make you thin”. If you’ve been sold something like that, you’ve been lied to.
Most products of this type are based on the premise of being “metabolism accelerators”. As I wrote in this article on how to activate the basal metabolism, the best way to speed up the metabolism is to exercise.
If it is true that there are some foods that have that accelerating property, however, they are not going to be of any use if we are lying on the couch. On the other hand, no matter how much cinnamon we drink, it’s not going to make us lose weight all at once.
One of the products that has shown to be most effective, and yet the data is absolutely certain, is L-Acetyl-Carnitine.
Many people take L-Acetyl-Carnitine dry, however, we know today that it only works in conditions when we have very high blood sugar levels. Precisely, this is not the best time to train.
This is the only “supplement” that I systematically recommend to all patients that I treat for weight loss issues. Chitosan extra forte is a natural product made from the skin of crustaceans, which, in short, is a type of dietary fiber.
What this product does, being a type of fiber, is to absorb a part of the fat that we ingest. That is to say, when we are taking care of our diet it is normal that there are moments when we do not eat as we “should”: birthdays, parties, etc.
For these moments, it can be useful to take Chitosa extra forte before. In this way we will reduce the impact and the absorption of fat. What we must do is, half an hour before the ingestion, take a couple of capsules with a full glass of water (so that the fiber is inflated and is more effective).
Vitamin D, royal jelly… this has increased the sale of nutritional supplements in quarantine
Experts confirm that many people are looking for products that help them improve their defenses, as well as sleep better.
We wonder if in the midst of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus, have they noticed in pharmacies, parapharmacies and herbalists the increased demand for certain products, beyond the already indispensable masks and hydroalcoholic gels, related to improving the defenses and the immune system. And the experts confirm that this is so: “During the last few weeks, we have noticed an increase in the demand in herbalists and parapharmacies for food supplements that contribute to the normal maintenance of the functioning of the immune system. The interest in keeping our body in good shape, now more than ever, encourages many people to look for natural solutions to keep their defenses ready,” says Antonio Garcia, doctor of pharmacy and technical pharmaceutical director of Laboratorios Marnys.
Pharmacist Meritxell Martí agrees, and tells us that she has indeed appreciated how the sale of all kinds of products to stimulate defences has increased in her establishment in Andorra. Thus, she tells us that on the particular podium of the sales ranking, vitamin C is in first place, probiotics and prebiotics in second place and vitamin D in third place. “In general, all the supplements that can increase the defenses are sold more, combinations of echinacea, sambucol, omega 3, propolis, royal jelly, manuka honey, collagen? “Some of the products in which we have noticed an increase in demand are those that integrate active ingredients such as echinacea, vitamin C and vitamin D, which are important to keep the immune system ready,” the expert tells us, adding that more and more people who are concerned about their diet are using food supplements to help maintain the normal functioning of the immune system and the defenses. “That is why all those supplements that have these components have stood out,” he tells us. These products were already selling very well in the spring, since many of them are also useful to mitigate the typical symptoms of spring asthenia. “Ingredients such as royal jelly or ginseng can also contribute to provide that extra energy so necessary during the asthenia season”, tells us the Marnys expert.
An extra of vitamins and minerals
But, at this particular time, when we all want to stay strong with our defenses ready to try to stop or better cope with the coronavirus, we wonder if the ingredients of these products can really help us keep our defenses up. “The main benefit they bring to the body is the supply of certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can provide a plus to supplement the diet, at specific times of life or for special circumstances,” the expert adds, who tells us that for example, vitamin D is activated in the body by the sun’s rays and now, due to confinement, many people may have levels slightly below the usually recommended, so they can include supplements of this vitamin in their diet. “Likewise, echinacea has been highly studied for its properties for the normal functioning of the respiratory system and the maintenance of immune function,” he adds.
We do wonder, however, if taking these products can give people a certain feeling of being protected from a health problem as serious as the coronavirus. The experts are clear about this: “As reflected by the Spanish Agency of Food Safety and Nutrition, food supplements can not prevent or cure the coronavirus,” explains Antonio Garcia, who thus denies one of the hoaxes that has emerged in recent weeks in relation to the pandemic. Having said that, what is certain is that we must try to keep ourselves in a good state to better face any health problem. “What is recommendable, and it depends on each one of us, is to maintain a daily routine of healthy habits, such as taking care of our diet, sleeping well, practicing sports daily, taking extreme hygiene measures, avoiding stress and anxiety, etc. In this way, it also contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. In this sense, the balanced feeding can be complemented with food supplements with ingredients like royal jelly or propolis, which provide energetic nutrients for the metabolism, echinacea or vitamins C and D that contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system,” he explains.
Food supplements aside, we also wonder if other products, such as those related to improving the quality of sleep have also seen an increase in demand, considering that many people recognize that they sleep worse these days. “In these moments of uncertainty, the quality of sleep is presented as one of the main concerns of the population. We have observed that, during the last weeks, the demand of products with active principles such as melatonin and lemon balm that contribute to the quality of sleep and to the good maintenance of the state of mind, has also experienced an increase in the establishments,” he explains. Meritxell Martí also points out that the sale of products that help with emotional balance has increased, “especially melatonin, tryptophan, valerian or passion flower.
These are also moments of nerves, of anxiety… Can we find remedies beyond medicines to deal with this problem? “Helping our body to find that state of calm and tranquility so desired during these days is feasible if we resort to healthy physical and mental habits, such as practicing some exercise or even relaxation and meditation techniques can also help. There is also the possibility of supplementing the diet with natural ingredients, which can help relaxation during this period of confinement. For example, Marnys Relahelp, a supplement with natural active ingredients that facilitate physical and psychological well-being, in the face of states of stress, which includes vitamins B and C, minerals such as Zinc and Magnesium, hydrolyzed milk protein and L-Theanine,” the expert tells us.