There are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding dietary supplements, both in the ranks of those who oppose them and those who swear by them. While some will try to convince you that supplements are a poison disguised as a cure straight from the bowels of hell, others will do their best to make you think that pills and powders will soon eliminate the need for food.
As with many things in life, the truth is somewhere in between. But, let us not get ahead of ourselves, because we still need to make sure we all know what we’re talking about. So, for starters, let’s get down to the basics of safe supplement use.
What are the supplements?
Dietary supplements are products that contain varying amounts of certain nutrients intended to address the lack of said nutrients in one’s diet. The important distinction regarding supplements (and the main reason they have the same legal status as food in the majority of countries around the world) is that they contain only natural matters otherwise freely found in natural food sources. They usually represent concentrated amounts of certain nutrients, aiming to compensate for the lack of those nutrients in an easy to use, convenient manner.
Which products are supplements?
Supplements cover a wide range of products, from various vitamins a lot of us use on daily basis to products aiming to address specific medical conditions, all the way to a plethora of workout supplements that have become synonymous with the entire “genre”.
Are they safe to use?
As we already mentioned, supplements are legally treated as food, meaning that they adhere to less strict regulations, controls and analysis than pharmaceutical products. Still, that doesn’t mean that they are not controlled at all. They still have to adhere to the same standards of production as the food industry, still have to list all the ingredients (and they all have to be natural ingredients). While this doesn’t ensure that supplements will deliver on the promised results, it at least means that they won’t do you any harm if you buy them over the counter and stick to the suggested dosage.
What are the potential health hazards?
While there have been cases of adverse reactions in safe supplement users, the percentages are extremely small and the effects are often related to other pre-existing conditions. The regulations leave it in the hands of supplement manufacturers to ensure that their product is safe for the general public, and while that may scare you off from using supplements, putting out a harmful product is a terrible business strategy, as well as a sure-fire way to land in prison or find yourself on the wrong end of a million-dollar lawsuit. All things considered, if you play by the rules you’re going to be fine.
How to steer clear of any potential hazards?
Playing by the rules means a few things:
- First of all, buying supplements over the counter, from reputable brands and trusted distributors of sports and health supplements – not from a random guy selling you a miracle potion in the back alley behind the gym.
- Secondly, it means consulting your doctor if you already have a medical condition to see if you’re fit to use a certain supplement. Better yet, consulting your doctor even if you’re perfectly fine will help you clear away any doubts.
- Thirdly, it means knowing what you buy. Read carefully through the packaging and the ingredients list, especially if you have pre-existing allergies.
- Finally, it means staying within the limits of the suggested dosage. Our bodies only need certain amounts of nutrients, and some of those nutrients tend to accumulate in the system if their amounts exceed the body’s ability to absorb them. Keep in mind that those guidelines are placed on the packaging for a reason, and pushing things too hard may have the effects opposite to what you expect.
Ultimately, your decision whether to use supplements or not will be determined by your specific needs. While people with certain allergies or medical conditions will be forced to resort to supplements to address the lack of certain nutrients in your diet, you can get all those nutrients through a well planned dietary program.
For some of you, supplements may prove to be a way more convenient and practical solution than adhering to a strict dietary regimen, but don’t lose sight of the aforementioned safety guidelines and you will be able to reap the benefits without any unwanted side effects.