Dietary Supplements: Safety and Uses
Dietary supplements are substances that you can ingest to improve your diet, gain health benefits, or address specific nutrient deficiencies.
Dietary Supplements’ Safety
Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not prescribed by a medical professional, and dietary supplements’ FDA regulation is different from that of drugs and medications. While they are scrutinized for basic safety standards, the marketers of dietary supplements are not required to demonstrate health or other benefits. As a result, these supplements run the full gamut from well-documented treatments for serious medical conditions to substances of no medical or dietary value. Since many supplements, such as vitamins and minerals, contain bioactive molecules, taking high or unregulated doses can even result in serious medical conditions. For instance, an overdose of Vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal illness. In other words: buyer beware.
Dietary Supplements Risks and Benefits
The most obvious benefit of dietary supplements is to correct dietary or biological shortcomings. Dietary supplements may be worth taking when used to address a specific shortcoming or to achieve a well-documented benefit. This is often the case with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids, which are lacking from many diets, and which have been conclusively linked to many medical benefits. It’s effectively impossible to overdose on these supplements and their use is linked to improved cognitive function, cardiovascular benefits, and even cancer prevention. While unwise consumption of some supplements can result in overdose symptoms, the primary risk is to your wallet: many supplements are expensive and their claims of effectiveness are questionable unless backed by solid medical research.
Dietary Supplements’ Bodybuilding Benefits and Supplements for Weight Loss
Muscle growth and weight loss are among the most popular uses for dietary supplements, and many of the products currently on the market are of questionable efficacy. While no “quick fix” supplements exist for bodybuilding or dieting, several supplements are supported by well-replicated research. Green tea extract has proven effective as a weight loss aid, especially when coupled with a sensible diet. For muscle gain, anaerobic boosters such as creatine monohydrate and blood blow aids such citrulline (a nitric oxide booster) can lead to increased muscle gains when coupled with regular resistance training.
The overall message to be gleaned from dietary supplements is that they can be quite effective when used to address a specific deficit (such as low vitamin D levels) or when used to enhance the effectiveness of diet or exercise. Like most medications and lifestyle changes, they are best used sensibly and responsibly, and because of the number of questionable supplements on the market, it’s important to do your research before committing to a supplement.