Nutrition Supplements: Why Quality Matters

Nutrition Supplements: Why Quality Matters

A recent 2018 study of 2,000 UK consumers found 59% reported taking a nutrition supplement at some point during that year. Vitamin or mineral supplements are sometimes necessary, especially if there are nutrient gaps in your diet. It’s always best to focus on food first because supplements should not replace nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle. However, there may be times in life when this can be more difficult and our food intake is less than ideal.

Modern farming, soil quality and food production methods have also changed in the last few decades, reducing some of the important nutrients in our food.

Who needs nutrition supplements?

There are some more specific times when a supplement is advisable. The elderly or disabled, for example, may be more housebound and this could lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Prenatal supplements offer assurance of optimal nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Good nutrition in early years is also vital. The UK Department of Health recommends children aged 6 months to 5 years are given supplements of vitamins A, C and D every day.

People who follow a plant-based or vegan diet should be supplementing with vitamin B12, which is normally obtained from animal foods, to prevent pernicious anemia.

How are nutrition supplements regulated?

There are many different nutrition supplements to choose from. It can be difficult to know which is best for you. Some have been proven beneficial for improving health, others are just pseudoscience.

The supplements industry is largely unregulated. In the UK most supplements are regulated as foods and are subject to the UK Food Safety Act. Companies who make food supplements are not allowed to make claims to prevent, treat or cure a disease. Instead they often refer to better function and general wellbeing, or claims related to nutrient deficiencies with supporting clinical studies.

How to Choose a Good Nutrition Supplement

Choose a quality nutrition supplement

Quality matters!

Trustworthy supplement companies rely on scientific research and independent studies to support their products. They adhere to certain safety standards and will always carry out a thorough analysis of their products. This means that a quality supplement is usually more expensive, you often get what you pay for.

Proof of safety and efficiency

Any good supplement company will also be able to verify the safety, and traceability of their own products. In addition to all this, they should be able to provide robust evidence for the efficiency of their products. Peer reviewed human research with third party testing is the gold standard to look out for.

Quality and safety checks are even more important for some supplements such as fish oil or probiotics. Probiotics in particular are also strain specific, not one size fits all. The finer details are often key to their effectiveness.

Artificial fillers

Fillers and preservatives are often added to cheaper supplements, along with the active ingredients. This helps to extend the shelf life of the nutrients, fill a capsule or bind ingredients together in a tablet.

Consider the dosage and duration 

For a nutrition supplement to do what it is says it is intended to do. It needs to have enough of the active ingredients. Minimal amounts will most likely have little to no effect. It is important to read the clinical trials, this can help to determine what dose and duration might be effective.

Absorption and bioavailability is also something to consider. Quality supplement companies are able to identify the potency and bioavailability of each ingredient.

Nutrition supplements also come in various forms liquids, gels, sprays, tablets or capsules which can affect how bio available the nutrients are in the body.

Some vitamins or minerals might be better absorbed when taken separately from eachother, or with food and others might be better absorbed in-between meals.

The nutrient companies that make them should be able to provide evidence for their ingredient form and choice of delivery system. They should also be able to advise how best to take the supplement and verify that it works.

A nutritionists view

It is advisable to think carefully about what dietary supplements you take and why you are taking them. More is not always better and could even be harmful or lead to side effects.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on regular medication you should talk to your doctor or a nutrition practitioner before taking any supplements.

Each one should be carefully chosen and researched. If you have any allergies, check the ingredients carefully. Look out for GMP certification. This is an internationally recognised award that stands for Good Manufacturing Practice.

Think about how long you have been taking the supplement, and if it is still effective. Your body is ever changing and always adapting to the environment. This can be as tested simply by stopping it every couple of months and seeing if your symptoms return.

Lastly, supplements may interact with medications. It is vital to check for any known drug and nutrient interactions. A nutritionist is able use their expertise in nutritional therapy and take the time to research all these points thoroughly.

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