Eye on Extension: More on supplements

VALLEY — Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, and other substances that may be “supplemented,” or added to diet, in order to complete dietary needs or to make up for a nutrition deficiency – they are NOT intended to replace a healthy diet.  Supplements come in many forms, including pills, capsules, powders, drinks, or energy bars. It is important to remember that supplements are not required to go through the same stringent testing as over the counter (OTC) and prescription medicine, and are not regulated as closely by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Choose Food First, Supplements Second – Vitamin and mineral supplements are the most common dietary supplement used by approximately 40 percent of adults in the United States.  Despite the popularity of supplements, most people are capable of obtaining all of the required vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet alone. In fact, those who take supplements daily may be at risk for excessive intake, or toxicity of certain nutrients. 

Also, supplements can be very expensive – as evidenced by the $30 billion that Americans spend annually on all forms, a number that continues to grow every year. In some circumstances a daily supplement may not be necessary, and for many, taking multivitamin or mineral once every two to three days may be a cost-effective choice. Since the body has limited storage for many of these nutrients, most of the time they are simply excreted. The most cost-effective way to promote good health is eat a wide selection of foods and exercise regularly. 

The majority of Americans consume all of the nutrients needed through a balanced and varied diet that includes healthy food choices. Remember being told to “eat a variety of foods”? That’s what a balanced diet is, a daily variety of food from the food groups; breads, cereals, and grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk, and protein/meat. By eating this “balanced diet” you should be getting all the needed nutrients per day. 

Certain individuals may have dietary restrictions (such as those with celiac disease or lactose intolerance), or belong to a particular life stage (pregnant, breastfeeding, or older adult) and may benefit from taking specific supplements. Talk to your doctor before deciding to take a dietary supplement.

Again, remember, supplements are not regulated by the government and may make false health claims that are not supported by research. Before consuming any type of supplement, talk to your doctor and research the supplement thoroughly. The following website resource can help you make an educated decision and identify inaccurate information when choosing a dietary supplement: National Library of Medicine (NLM) – Dietary Supplements Labels Database.

For more information contact Mary Ellen Fleming at 852-7381, or visit the CSU Extension Office for the San Luis Valley Area at 1899 E. Hwy 160 in Monte Vista.  Please feel free to visit our website at:  http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu for information about services provided.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Counties cooperating.