To Complement or Not? Understanding the Advantages and Risks

Jan. 26, 2022 — Are you pondering of including dietary supplements to your weight loss program? Whereas dietary supplements will be useful in some instances, they could be a very slippery slope, and customers should proceed with warning, one registered dietitian nutritionist says. 

Jamie Lee McIntyre, a dietitian and vitamin marketing consultant at, says she sees extra curiosity in supplementation each January with folks’s New Yr’s resolutions. However there’s additionally a year-round curiosity, she says, particularly because the pandemic started, making it much more essential to know the dangers and rewards related to them.

First off, it’s essential to notice that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements.

“Although they’re offered over-the-counter, they are often as harmful as drugs. The least harmful worst-case situation is a waste of cash,” says McIntyre. “For instance, megadoses of water-soluble nutritional vitamins are actually flushed down the bathroom by means of urine when there isn’t any medical want or true vitamin deficit within the individual taking it.”

“Essentially the most harmful worst-case situations generally is a meals and drug interplay, corresponding to vitamin Okay interfering with blood thinning drugs, or toxicity, which might occur with fat-soluble nutritional vitamins and others,” she continues.

Studying labels for certification can assist however is one other place the place schooling is important. Many complement makers will go for testing by a third-party operator to indicate a top quality and display that what’s on the label is certainly what’s within the bottle.

McIntyre recommends in search of certification from Knowledgeable Sport, NSF Licensed for Sport, or USP when you’re checking.

Past studying labels, it’s important to know your precise wants earlier than popping drugs or including powders to your drinks. Liberal use of dietary supplements may cause a number of points, says McIntyre.

“Considered one of my very first sufferers I met as a brand new dietitian was a person hospitalized for a gastrointestinal bleed due to his common use of a laundry record of vitamin dietary supplements,” she says. “Many labels even warn of this. Whereas toxicity and meals and drug interactions are essentially the most harmful problems, much less harmful however undesirable points can come up, corresponding to masking a distinct deficiency or undiagnosed well being situation, or creating a brand new challenge or symptom from taking an pointless complement.”

For these trying to increase health beneficial properties by way of dietary supplements particularly for that objective, the slope will be simply as slippery.

“I typically see purchasers taking pre-workout or ‘energy-boosting’ dietary supplements, with excessive quantities of caffeine,” says McIntyre. “This may result in diarrhea, fast and irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and dizziness, amongst different points. One other frequent facet impact is gastrointestinal misery and upset abdomen.”

How one can Get It Proper

In case you are questioning when you want a complement of any kind and wish to add it to your weight loss program in a protected manner, there are steps to take to perform that. The primary and finest approach to go about supplementation is to start out together with your physician or a registered dietitian.

“I first carry out a full vitamin evaluation, full with evaluate of previous medical historical past, allergic reactions, present and previous treatment use, present complement use, lab work (most frequently chem, heme and lipid panels), and, after all, a weight loss program evaluate utilizing meals logs or meals questionnaires to know the place they stand by way of present nutrient consumption,” says McIntyre. “Labs that I’d order separate from the panels I’ve talked about could be iron and whole binding capability, ferritin, B12 and folic acids, in addition to vitamin D.”

Relying in your life-style, this method could fluctuate.

“For sure populations, like athletes contemplating low-risk supplementation, lab work will not be crucial for implementing a product like creatine monohydrate. Or if I do know a shopper is having a tricky time assembly protein wants on a vegan weight loss program, a minimal-ingredient plant-based protein powder could possibly be low-risk,” McIntyre says. “As with all issues nutrition-related, it comes right down to the person and what’s required to find out the perfect method actually particular to them.”

What about taking a easy multivitamin? Must you test in with a physician or registered dietitian for that?

“A single multivitamin, within the absence of different vitamins and critical well being circumstances, generally is a good insurance coverage plan,” says McIntyre. “If an individual has determined to take a multivitamin, I like to recommend in search of one that’s third-party examined, comprises nutrient dosing particular to the individual’s wants primarily based on intercourse and age, has good bioavailability of key vitamins, is handy, and offered at an inexpensive value.”

Some multivitamins are focused to particular populations, like post-menopausal girls, for instance. Whereas these would possibly look like the best thought, it is best to once more tread rigorously earlier than you are taking one. As an illustration, be cautious of dietary supplements that promise hormone steadiness or are in any other case not normal apply with out first getting a full vitamin evaluation and confirmed medical want for such a complement.

This holds true on this present second of the pandemic, too. Misinformation about what dietary supplements can and may’t do to stop or remedy COVID is widespread.

“You can’t, nor would you wish to, ‘increase’ your immune system with dietary supplements,” warns McIntyre. “Sure, it’s true sure vitamins assist immune well being. Nutritional vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like zinc, all play a job in immune system perform.”

That stated, “there isn’t any must take dietary supplements when you eat a balanced weight loss program, so the advice needs to be to incorporate these meals in your each day weight loss program for important vitamins that assist your immune system.”

And in a really perfect world, you’ll just do that — get the vitamins you want, with out dietary supplements.

“If there’s a perceived, particular want for supplementation, it’s all the time finest to evaluate your curiosity together with your doctor, dietitian, and pharmacist in order that they’ll finest show you how to navigate and select what’s best for you,” says McIntyre.

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