Supplements are everywhere. Vitamins, minerals, bone broths, and protein powders are no longer only available at the health food store, you can find them nearly everywhere you shop – if you shop mainly online, there’s more choice than ever and for prices which are a fraction of what they were even 5 years ago – but do we actually need supplements to be healthy?
The important thing to remember about supplementation is that it should be just that – an addition to a diet which is already healthy and (fairly) well balanced. In an ideal world, we’d all get our required daily amounts for each nutrient from our food alone, and this is certainly possible – however, real life often gets in the way. Busy lifestyles can often restrict our choice of foods, so that even if we make an effort to pick healthy options we can still be somewhat limited in terms of nutritrient intake. Similarly, some of our lifestyle choices, such as being a vegetarian or vegan can predispose a person to lacking in certain areas of nutrition. In some cases, allergies or intolerances might make it difficult to get enough of some nutrients, especially in those who are lactose intolerant. These are good examples of where supplementation can be very helpful.
Where supplementation is not especially healthy or helpful is as a replacement for a healthy diet – while it is true that taking a daily multivitamin will add important micronutrients to a diet which is otherwise too high in calories, fats and carbohydrates, it won’t address the underlying problems with this kind of eating, nor will it reduce your risk of health issues associated with this kind of food intake.
Does supplementation improve health?
Where supplementation is used to support a healthy diet and exercise regime, it can be a valuable tool to allow us to perform at our best – however, there is also evidence that some kinds of supplementation may have a direct impact on our health. For instance, at least one study suggested multivitamins may be able to reduce overall cancer rates in men. Conversely, Malnutrition from an insufficient diet is found in approximately 40% of people with chronic diseases – correlation is not causation, but addressing issues with your diet could be an easy way to improve health and reduce risk from some chronic conditions
Do I need to see a nutritionist?
If you have concerns about the overall quality of your diet, or simply don’t know where to start on evaluating it, to begin with, a trip to a nutritionist or dietician can be a great step. While common-sense steps, like taking a multivitamin or including a protein shake in your diet to boost fat-free protein levels can be a great choice, it’s important to understand which supplements you are taking and why – not least because some nutrients can be harmful if taken in too great a quantity. At complete Chiropractic, were always happy to give our clients some basic information and “first steps” towards improving their diets too – don’t forget that Chiropractors focus on overall health improvement, and diet is a big part of this!
How about weight loss?
There are many, many weight loss supplements on the market – the truth is the vast majority do not work, and some can be dangerous. Ensuring that your body is getting all the nutrients it requires is critical in supporting a weight loss regime, since it allows you to exercise safely and effectively, but there’s no miracle supplement which will make you lose weight. This being said, weight loss should be something you consider if you could stand to lose a few pounds – it’s known that carrying excessive weight can contribute to back pain and knee pain in particular – both of which we see an awful lot of!
 Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men: The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 2013