Our CEO Sohini De is sharing her knowledge on supplements why do we need them, which ones to chose from.
I often get asked about supplements and their usage be it at events, workshops or in my clinics. So today I thought I will give a quick overview and my point of view on the same. As mentioned in the heading, it IS a minefield so would require a full workshop but I will try to cover the some of the aspects here.
So, what are supplements? Unless you are living in a cave, it is impossible to not come across them in pharmacies or health food stores or even online channels. Dietary supplements are not drugs and are intended to be taken to supplement a diet. However, a lot of the times I get clients who are looking for the “magic pill” (read supplements) which will allow them to continue on their path of exciting malnutrition and an unsustainable lifestyle!
First and foremost, I believe you should always look to get your nutrients from food first and supplements, if used, in most cases, should be looked at more as a short term support while you fix the diet and lifestyle. Think of it as something like a scaffolding while you fix the basic structure. So the bad news is.. There is no ‘magic pill’.
Why do we need supplements: our modern day living and diet can throw us off balance resulting in nutrient deficiencies. So sometimes we need to reset that. Also, the soil composition has changed over the decades due to change in farming practices. So even if you are eating whole food diets, there may be a requirement for some extra nutrients.
Which supplements to choose: Reading labels for supplements are as important as reading food labels. Make sure it is from a clean food source with minimum binders, fillers and other chemicals. This not only hinders absorption of that nutrient by your body but also may irritate your body and result in adverse side effects.
Also There are many variables you have to consider while choosing supplements. For example what is the most bioavailable (ie that is absorbable by your body) form for you? For example a lot of calcium supplements are nothing but calcium carbonate, i.e. chalk. A citrate or malate form may be absorbed better1,2.Also it needs to be considered what other nutrients can help absorption of that nutrient. For e.g Vitamin D improves absorption of Calcium3. In few cases various forms of the same nutrient works differently for different age groups. No wonder we started this piece saying this is a minefield!
So, the most important part:Please consult a genuine healthcare professional who is registered to advise you on supplements before you consider taking any of them. This is not a ploy by us to make you call on some of our services but it is a genuine concern we have regarding current supplement use in the general public. So, do investigative work before you buy something blindly; question qualifications, affiliations or whatever, but do CHECK!
Where to buy them?Always ask the experts for the best source of supplements for your individual need. Be careful while buying things online. A lot of the times, if a product is only available online, it may mean there are ingredients which may not be safe for consumption.
I constantly see in clinics or overhear in public places where people discuss which supplements they swear by because they were told by so and so and that it worked for them. Frankly, I shudder in horror thinking how many people are actually doing more harm to their bodies while thinking they are helping their wellbeing!
Dawson-Hughes, B., Dallal, G.E., Krall, E.A., Sadowski, L., Sahyoun, N. and Tannenbaum, S., 1990. A controlled trial of the effect of calcium supplementation on bone density in postmenopausal women. New England Journal of Medicine, 323(13), pp.878-883.
Johnston Jr, C.C., Miller, J.Z., Slemenda, C.W., Reister, T.K., Hui, S., Christian, J.C. and Peacock, M., 1992. Calcium supplementation and increases in bone mineral density in children. New England journal of medicine, 327(2), pp.82-87.
Tang, B.M., Eslick, G.D., Nowson, C., Smith, C. and Bensoussan, A., 2007. Use of calcium or calcium in combination with vitamin D supplementation to prevent fractures and bone loss in people aged 50 years and older: a meta-analysis. The Lancet, 370(9588), pp.657-666.