Definition: A dietary or nutritional supplement, is a preparation such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, fatty acids, herbs or amino acids used to boost the nutritional content of the diet.
Dietary supplements may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps,liquids, or powders. These supplements are added to the diet for a variety of reasons including to boost overall health and energy; to provide immune system support and reduce the risks of illness and age-related conditions; to improve performance in athletic and mental activities; and to support the healing process during illness and disease.
There is scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of some dietary supplements and not others. Most dietary supplements are treated as food and not regulated as drugs are. Most dietary supplements are available without a prescription from your GP. This does not mean that all dietary supplements are safe e.g some dietary supplements will interact with medication. It is advisable to consult your GP or health professional before taking dietary supplements.
The body uses small amounts of these micronutrients to support its basic biochemical functions, and deficiencies over time can lead to illness and disease. Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble and they can be either natural or synthetic.
Minerals are involved in the basic make-up and chemical balance of cells in the body and are present in all foods. Bulk minerals (used by the body in larger quantities) include sodium,potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Trace minerals (used by the body in minute amounts) include iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, copper, manganese, and others.
Herbal medicine has been used by many cultures around the world for centuries. Herbs are added to the diet for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. Herbs are a source of phytochemicals. These are biologically active compounds that have notable effects in the body. Herbs can be purchased as capsules and tablets, as well as in tinctures, teas, syrups, and ointments.
Meal supplements are used to replace or boost the nutritional value of meals. They are blends of macronutrients, or proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fibre. These supplements are usually designed for people with special needs, or for people with illnesses that may affect digestion and nutritional requirements. Others are designed to support some popular weight loss, cleansing or muscle building programs and are often fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs and nutrientdense foods.
Dietary supplements often consist of high-protein compounds, such as amino acid supplements,while other products contain nutrients that support metabolism, energy, and athletic performance and recovery. Regular athletic activity can increase the need for water-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and certain minerals, including chromium. Sports drinks are a type of dietary supplement that contain blends of electrolytes (salts) that the body loses during exertion and sweating, as well as vitamins, minerals, and herbs.
NUTRIENT–DENSE FOOD PRODUCTS
Examples of these are brewer’s yeast, spirulina (sea algea), bee pollen and royal jelly, fish oil and essential fatty acid supplements, colostrums, psyllium seed husks (a source of fibre), wheat germ, wheatgrass, and medicinal mushrooms such as the shiitake and reishi varieties. Nutrient-dense dietary supplements may consist of whole foods or may be isolated compounds from natural or synthetic sources. Examples include antioxidants, probiotics (supplements containing healthy bacteria for the digestive tract), digestive enzymes, shark cartilage, or other animal products, or chemical extracts such as the hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and coenzyme Q10.
Nutritional Supplements. Medical Dictionary. Cited May 2012. Available from URL:http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Nutritional+Supplements
Overview of Dietary Supplements. FDA USA. Last updated OCT 2009. Available from URL: http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ConsumerInformation/ucm110417.htm#what
DISCLAIMER : The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or naturopath before following any medical regimen to see whether it is safe and effective for you.