Supplements are a source of confusion in the health and fitness world. Supplement companies brand them as essentials, while many health and fitness specialists say they’re not required. But the key is in the name ‘supplements’ – they are intended to supplement your diet.
A diet is ideally supposed to contain all the macronutrient and micronutrients necessary for optimal functioning and performance. But we know that’s not always possible. For example, vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in B12, shown in a 2003 study, because it’s a nutrient mainly found in animal products. Similarly, women are more at risk of iron deficiency due to their menstrual cycles, shown in this study published by JAMA.
If you’re wondering whether they’re worth investing in: the research is mixed. One large scale study found that taking supplements was not linked to an improvement of health markers. In fact, those who supplemented with 1,000 mg of calcium had an increased risk of disease, but those who consumed 1,000 mg of calcium from food were less at risk.
Another study published in The Lance tound that supplements are linked to adverse events including myocardial infarction, liver failure, internal bleeding and increased risk of death.
That being said, some studies have shown great benefits of supplements. One study found that vitamin D supplementation was linked to reduce depression, while another study found that folate supplements for women are linked to reduce birth defects, less anaemia and improved cognitive skills.
The FDA isn’t currently authorized to review dietary supplements before they are marketed, so the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring they are safe for use, but rarely have the funding or resources for large scale, long term testing; and also rarely held accountable.
So should you invest in supplements? First find out if you’re deficient; get your blood work done. If you’re under dietary restrictions like veganism, you should probably supplement with the key nutrients you’re missing. If you’re otherwise healthy and able to enjoy a varied diet, use this as your first point of call before relying on supplements.
P.S> Booking an RMR test to learn how much you need to eat is a better investment. You can book your RMR test with us!