The use of dietary supplements in the clinical nutrition and athletic realms has steadily increased throughout the years with reports estimating sales in the billions of dollars.
Dietary supplements fall into three prominent categories: vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal supplements and performance enhancing supplements.
Vitamin and mineral supplements include products such as multivitamins, B-vitamins, calcium supplements and prenatal vitamins. Most people can meet their nutritional needs for vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of foods; however, in some cases, supplementation may be necessary.
Pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, strict vegetarians, those who cannot consume dairy products and elderly people may benefit from certain vitamin and mineral supplementation. It is important to speak with your doctor to find the correct supplementation and dosage to prevent side effects and drug interactions. More is not always better. In fact, too much of some supplements can be toxic.
Herbal supplements come from plants; nevertheless, this does not always make them safe. Herbal supplements include echinacea, flaxseed, ginseng, ginkgo, saw palmetto, St John’s wort, black cohosh, evening primrose, milk thistle and garlic. Tell your doctor about any and all herbal supplements you are taking, as many have negative interactions between the herbal supplement and other medications.
Performance enhancing supplements are products like creatine, carbohydrate powders and gels, protein powders and sports energy bars and drinks, to name a few.
Limited data exists to determine whether these remedies are worth the often high price or their effectiveness in sports performance.
Most performance enhancing supplements are treated as a food substance and do not have to meet any of the FDA drug requirements.
The supplement industry is largely unregulated, which means most often the government only gets involved after a problem arises.
This is much different than how foods and medicinal drugs are regulated, so it is important to do your research to learn as much as you can about a particular supplement.
A good rule of thumb is to look for the “USP” or “NF” seal on the label. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia and NF for The National Formulary; both are quality-based regulatory bodies.
For more information, go to the website at www.usp.org.
Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.