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Should I take supplements?
With the wealth of information now available online it can be very confusing trying to find an answer to the above question.
To delve into whether we need to take supplements, let’s start at the beginning!
Supplements are manufactured products that are taken orally in a variety of forms, including tablet, liquid, gummies or powders. They aim to increase a person’s consumption of certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and enzymes etc. through sources that are either extracted from food or made synthetically.
For this article we are going to focus on the supplementation of micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals the body is not able to produce but requires in small amounts for normal growth and development.
Micronutrient supplementation can be described in two categories:
- therapeutic supplementation
- maintenance supplementation.
Therapeutic supplementation involves taking a supplement for a specific period of time for a specific purpose e.g. taking iron tablets for 3 months to combat iron deficiency. Once the iron deficiency is resolved, you no longer need to take the iron supplement and hopefully will get enough iron from your diet so that the supplement is no longer required. Therapeutic supplementation should be used under the care of a health professional and based on testing to establish there is a deficiency in the first place.
Maintenance supplementation involves enhancing the intake of a nutrient or nutrients, due to a person's belief that they are not getting enough of the nutrient from their diet. Maintenance supplementation involves the prevention stage, whereas therapeutic supplementation involves the treatment phase.
This article is going to focus on maintenance supplementation; and delve into the research to see if it is worthwhile to spend money on supplements:
Supplements for brain health
Being able to maintain brain function and prevent dementia as we age is very appealing. But can supplements help us achieve this?
Currently there is no evidence to support vitamin and mineral supplementation in middle aged/older people wishing to maintain their brain function and prevent dementia. A few small positive effects were seen with the long-term use of vitamin C and beta-carotene, but further research needs to be completed before recommendations can be made.
In summary, there is limited research promoting the supplementation of vitamins and minerals. A food first approach is always recommended as food provides you with both essential and non-essential nutrients that aren’t always added to supplements and food is often less expensive compared to supplements. It is important to remember that you cannot supplement your way out of a bad diet. Enjoying a diet based on wholefoods, fruit, and vegetables is the best way to try and reach your vitamin and mineral requirements.
If you think you might have a vitamin or mineral deficiency it is important to consult a healthcare practitioner, so they can provide you with advice and proper testing.
If you are wanting information on the daily amount of micronutrients you should consume, read more in our Vitamins section.
Note: This article is aimed at healthy adults and older people. If you are pregnant or have a diagnosed health condition, follow the advice provided by your doctor/healthcare practitioner.