Dietary supplements have been under the scrutiny of health nuts for a long time. Though nutritionists swear by supplements, people are still unsure whether they are actually required – some of us even roll our eyes at their mere mention. To understand why supplements are used, it’s important to put a few things in perspective. And for that, here are the statistics provided by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Over 30% of the world’s population is anemic.1
- Globally, about 2 billion people have insufficient iodine intake.2
- Over 17.3% people, globally, are at risk of zinc deficiency.
- An alarming 95% American adults don’t receive enough vitamin D.3
- Over 49% Americans have a calcium inadequacy in their diet.
From this data, it is clear that most of us lack micronutrients in our diet, thanks to the fast-food, fad-diet culture we’ve adhered to. Fortunately, taking dietary supplements (after consulting a nutritionist, of course!) can help us gain the deficit nutrients. But, before opting for supplements, it’s necessary to know how to choose the ones that are right for you. And here are some pointers to help you decide.
1. Opt For Legitimate Brands
It can be confusing to figure out which brand to opt for, and choosing the wrong brand can actually be dangerous to your health. Run a simple internet search to find out which brands are legitimate, and stay away from the several “fake” products that emerge every few days. The well-known brands with a good reputation are most like to sell high-quality supplements. Also, don’t forget to ensure that the product has been approved by the FDA. Also, look for third-party seals. If the product has legitimate seals (by the NSF, USP, or CL), it means that your product has been assessed for quality.
2. Don’t Use Supplements In Place Of Drugs
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a product claims to instantly cure a certain health condition – be it “reversing” diabetes or “curing” heart disease – then it’s best avoided. A supplement is not a drug and it cannot cure an illness. For example, a calcium supplement can help strengthen your bones, but it can’t cure osteoporosis. So, always read the label and go for the supplement that doesn’t promise to “cure” anything. More importantly, don’t use supplements expecting that they achieve what a drug would.
3. Don’t Go By Tall Claims
The marketing gimmicks of certain supplements are often hard to ignore, but it’s important to not fall for them. A protein supplement might claim to instantly help you shed 20 pounds, but the weight loss aspect of it is probably just a ploy to coerce you into buying it. Supplements are meant to provide the necessary micronutrient and at most, reduce your risk of illnesses. They don’t facilitate instant weight loss – of course, a certain supplement might help you become lean and burn fat (but only about 1-2 lb every week), but this is a gradual process and not an overnight miracle.4
4. Loosen The Purse Strings
It’s okay to pay a little more for high-quality supplements. A cheap product is, more often than not, made from cheap ingredients. And good supplements, without a doubt, come with a high price tag. As a rule of thumb, it is good to give the cheapest supplement a pass and go for the ones that are mid-range.
5. Purchase From Local Retailers
If you’re buying supplements for the first time, it’s always better to shop at your local retail outlets instead of ordering online. If you’re inexperienced, it’s normal to feel confused about choosing the right supplement. The salespersons at retail stores are often knowledgeable and can help you navigate your way through the plethora of options.
6. Do You Actually Need The Supplement?
It’s easy to give in to the buzz around “fitness and health” and take supplements just because everybody around you is taking them. Before buying supplements, make sure that you actually require them. When you’re sure that you indeed lack a certain nutrient in your diet, then proceed to conduct actual research about the supplement that you’ve been prescribed.
7. Always Do Your Research
The FDA often leaves the manufacturers to conduct research and test their products. But, these tests have several limitations – they might be conducted on a very low number of people, they might succeed only in ideal conditions, and they might not take externalities into account. So, to be on the safer side, always do your research about your supplement and its active ingredient. Make sure that the ingredient actually does what it claims, and understand any side-effects that it may have.
If you’re facing a nutrient deficiency, it’s important to take dietary supplements. If you’ve never been on supplements before, choosing the right one might be overwhelming. So, keep these pointers in mind to make the decision-making process easy and smooth.
|↑1||Micronutrient deficiencies. World Health Organization.|
|↑2||Micronutrient Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|
|↑3||How much is too much? : Appendix B: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the US. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑4||Bell, Stacey J., Wendy Van Ausdal, and Greg Grochoski. “Do dietary supplements help promote weight loss?.” Journal of dietary supplements 6, no. 1 (2009): 33-53.|