Food supplements, how to choose them

Food supplements, how to choose them

Food supplements are in vogue and often overdone. When is it really necessary to resort to vitamin and mineral supplementation?

Food supplements, how to choose them

In recent years, the market for food supplements  has significantly increased ; in the United States, for example, one in two people resort to supplementation, while in Italy the rate drops to one in three, but it is still very high.

Self-prescription and do-it-yourself are often used; the choice of supplements to use, that is autonomous and takes place without having consulted a specialist .

An article published in March 2018 on JAMA tried to shed some light on the subject. The article is aimed at doctors, but, given the widespread use of supplements, its content can also be very interesting for non-experts.

The authors (JoAnn Manson and Shari Bassuk) assert that most of the randomized trials of mineral and vitamin supplements have not shown clear benefits in primary or secondary prevention for many chronic diseases unrelated to nutritional deficiencies .

On the contrary, an excess of supplementation was instead considered responsible for an increase in some diseases. They also emphasize that supplements cannot replace proper nutrition , which remains essential for maintaining good health.

The micronutrients present in food, in fact, are better absorbed by the body and are associated with fewer potential adverse effects .

A healthy diet provides a whole range of nutrients in biological optimal proportions; conversely, supplements provide isolated compounds in highly concentrated form.

So shouldn’t you take supplements? The authors of the article argue that while supplementation is not recommended in the general population, it is essential for certain categories . Which?

Recommended supplements in the healthy population, based on specific stages of life

It is known that  pregnant women are always advised to supplement with folic acid to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. The authors also recommend taking multivitamin supplements specially formulated to meet the increased needs of the gestational period .

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics , babies who are exclusively breastfed must receive vitamin D and, starting from 4 months of age, also iron, up to the introduction of foods that contain it.

Of course, this does not mean that breast milk is less nutritious but simply that the formulas are added with vitamins and minerals . Breast milk remains the ideal food for the baby’s nutrition, at least until the sixth month of age and, preferably, even beyond.

For middle-aged people (50+) it may be advisable to take vitamin B12 , vitamin D and calcium, as appropriate.

Read also Supplements for children >>

Supplements recommended in the population with pathologies

Also according to the authors of the article Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. What Clinicians Need to Know , there are supplements that are recommended for people with particular pathologies. For example, in the case of pernicious anemia it is advisable to take vitamin B12 , while in the case of Crohn’s disease, other inflammatory intestinal diseases and celiac disease it is recommended to supplement with iron , B vitamins, vitamin D , zinc and magnesium.

Those with osteoporosis or other bone conditions should take vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, while older adults with age-related macular degeneration can benefit from supplementing antioxidants, copper and zinc .

The authors also point out that not all supplements are the same and that we must therefore be careful to use certified quality products .

Source: Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. What Clinicians Need to Know 

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