The dietary supplement industry is booming. Since these pill-sized heroes were introduced in the 1940s, sales have hit an all-time high. Despite the variety of supplements that are available, multivitamins, fish oils and garlic are still favoured by consumers. In a year, British people are estimated to spend over a whopping 400 million pounds on dietary supplements. With this market being so lucrative it’s is easy to be sceptical over big companies’ priorities. Is their concern for our health on par with their profits?
Walk into your local health store, with a question mark on your face and see how quickly are approached. You’ll notice behind the veneer of helpfulness is the assistant’s insistence that you need at least 2 more items than bargained for. Your concerns of soil nutrient depletion are played on and your busy life is thrown back in your face. Meanwhile the value of your basket creeps up and up. The message of these businesses is loud and clear: Save yourself time, take these remedies, and give us your money.
To decide whether you truly need dietary supplementation, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions.
- Are you eating all your vegetables?
If no is your answer, then don’t panic take this tablet. There are certain demographics that are at risk of not getting enough nutrients from their diet. Supplementation would be advisable for the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women, strict vegetarians and those with food allergies or intolerances. However if you believe your diet is better than average then here’s another question.
- Do you know which foods achieve optimal function?
Completely satisfying your body’s nutritional needs can be a science. An analysis of your activity levels, height, weight and age can identify what the cells in your body are craving. Dietary supplementation can take the headache out of it for you. For those that find taking pills unappetising, alternatives have been developed. Novel ways to supplement your diet range from adult chewable sweets and mineral lotions to superfood powders or vitamin sprays.
- Are the supplements safe?
More and more people are turning their attention to herbal medicine. However there is a common misconception that remedies derived from nature can do no harm. While supplements found in reputable shops are well-regulated and intrinsically safe, they can be potent and in some cases nearly as effective as pharmaceuticals. For that reason it is possible that they can intervene with prescriptions. It is always advisable to double check with a doctor or health practitioner before supplementing. These supplements should not be detrimental as long as you are following the product guidelines and have no allergies to the extract’s source.
For the best nutrient absorption, you should also aim to take high quality supplements, that are food based rather than synthetically derived. But remain mindful that these conveniently encapsulated nutrients act only as a safety net to catch dietary shortfalls. Ultimately the choice is up to you. Would you rather eat more well-balanced, healthy food or pop a pill?