Decoding Dietary Supplements
Picture this: Anjana Shukla* an investment banker in Mumbai wakes up at the wee hours and hits her home gym first thing in the morning. She packs lunch for her children and after seeing them off to school settles a few things at home. Later, just before leaving for work, she scoffs a piece of wheat bread and gulps down a few nutritional tablets. Anjana prides herself of being an avant-garde and assumes she knows how to take care of her health. “ As a contemporary woman I know that health is an important issue and hence I take good care of my health. Owing to my 24x7 work- home cycle I cannot take the conventional four time meals but I do survive on dietary supplements.” Thanks to the busy life, the traditional servings of fruits and vegetables have gone for a toss. Dwelling on their busy schedules most people consume these supplements hoping to improve performance, increase energy and maintain a good health.The nutritional supplements are available in various forms like capsules, powder, pills and tonics. These are easily available over the counter. We list out the different uses of these supplements
1. Vitamins- Vitamins are classified into two, water soluble vitamins and fat- soluble vitamins. While a group of B vitamins and vitamin C are termed as water soluble, Vitamin A,D,E and K are fat-soluble vitamins.
a. Fat soluble vitamins
Vitamin A- helps to keep the skin smooth and cures night blindness.
Vitamin D- the supplement helps to overcome osteoporosis. It also helps to heal bones, synthesis the body and cures rickets ( an illness found in malnourished kids).
Vitamin E- women particularly love this vitamin. Apart from healing wounds and helping to overcome muscle cramps, it is an antioxidant and anti-ageing vitamin.
Vitamin K- from treating weak bones to relieving itching and curing skin problems like scars, stretch marks, burns and bruises to quicken skin healing, Vitamin K works magical.
b. Water soluble vitamins- these vitamins cannot be retained in the body as they are eliminated in urine. These are advised to be taken on a regular basis.
Vitamin B1- it is a great source that helps to keep the heart and muscles stable, to digest the carbohydrates. It also helps in building up energy.
B2 and B5( folic acid)- help in blood synthesis/ formation of red blood cells.
Vitamin B6- useful in production of antibodies.
Vitamin B12- these supplements prove to be a great help in the growth of a child and is extremely essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
Vitamin C- a million dollar smile is what it brings on your face. These supplements help provide strength to cartilages and protects the bones, teeth and gums. It refrains any infection from growing into the body and cures the scurvy deficiency.
2. Botanicals and Herbs- these supplements contain either a single or a mixture of herbs, that is a part of a plant, its scent or flavour.
Omega 3- fish oil supplements are a great way to healthy heart and growth. It is advised that use of EPA and DHA omega 3 helps to lessen the risk of coronary heart disease and is efficient in maintaining brain and optical health.
3. Glucosamine- glucosomine is mostly used to cure joint pain caused by arthritis, sports injuries, allergies, chronic low back pain et el.
4. Fibre supplements- the benefits of fibre are well known. Fibre not only prevents constipation but also regularizes bowel function.
5. Minerals- mineral supplements help to maintain a healthy immune system and facilitates to build up bones and teeth and also support the vitamins in their work.
a. Calcium and Magnesium- the bone density is at a risk thanks to the aerated drinks that have become common. The calcium supplements rebuild the organic substance and further help in restoring bone mass. These supplements help in the functioning of the muscles. In addition if a person is found magnesium-deficient, then he can also be potassium-deficient, and no amount of potassium helps in recovery unless he gets equal amount of magnesium.
b. Iron- It is discovered that not many vegetarian foods are rich in iron, hence iron supplements are a great source to recover from anemia. Iron supplements are popularly recommended to infants with a low birth weight, teenage girls, and people with gastrointestinal disorders.Iron deficiency in children causes a host of abnormalities. Children tend to lack an interest in both studies and play, they suffer from irregular body temperatures, have a low immunity and more often than not, iron deficient kids tend to be weak and inactive.
Women, among adults, are more prone to anemia. Pregnant women are often recommended iron supplements.
c. Zinc- zinc supplements have myriad uses. It helps to boost the immune system, treats common cold, peptic ulcers, ailments caused by parasites, asthma, high blood pressure, AIDS, inherited disorders such as thalassemia, Wilson’s disease Various eye diseases like night blindness, cataract, macular degeneration et el can also be cured by these supplements. Moreover, athletes are known to use zinc to boost performance and gain strength.
6. Proteins - the young generation seems to be quite addicted to this particular supplement. Protein is known to be a great source in building muscles and also maintaining lean muscle mass. Proteins helps to boost metabolism and also lowers insulin levels in the blood. Further it constructs growth hormones. Whey protein, soy protein, rice protein, milk protein are a few examples of protein powders.
7. Omega-3( Fatty acid) - it reduces blood pressure and the risk of secondary or primary heart attack. It is excellent for heart, skin, and mane.
Disclaimer: While it is true that many medical practitioners, in order to beat certain deficiencies, prescribe dietary supplements and advice to pick these off the counter, one should understand that these supplements should never be taken without consulting a doctor.