If you keep a balanced diet and there are no counter effects to not taking them, supplements are not necessary. Take caution in consuming too much.
María Elena Giraldo Marín, Dietitian-Nutritionist, practitioner of Coomeva Private Healthcare.
In today’s society, where everyone is in a rush and there does not seem to be enough time to eat, and where people want to get extraordinary results from exercising for just a short amount of time, the use of dietary supplements needs to be handled very carefully, especially with those who believe that these can replace a balanced diet.
According to the nutritionist, María Elena Giraldo Marín, if an individual is healthy, in good condition and eats well, these supplements are not necessary. “It is important to emphasize this because nowadays, people tend to take everything and do not pay attention to the dosage nor the suggested amounts.”
Dietary supplements are substances that come in different shapes and forms such as pills, capsules and powders. They serve the purpose of providing or several nutrients that, for different reasons, someone may not be getting enough of. “They are substances that help to make your diet complete, depending upon each case. It is different for everyone,” she adds.
With this last point, she emphasizes that it is not about consuming what you “think” is appropriate or a product that someone recommended. Each person, the nutritionist clarifies, has their own need. This is why, when you have a health concern, the first step to take is to discuss it with your physician so that, with the help of lab exams, you can see if deficiencies are present, you can determine the cause of them and if there is a need for a dietary supplement. “If I find that the patient is not getting enough of something, either because of lactose intolerance, due to a liver condition or to an allergy to a certain food, that is when we begin to seek out alternatives,” she states.
The first alternative to treating nutritional deficiencies is to examine your diet and all the aspects that affect it, from the state of health the patient is in, to their social, emotional and work envirionments. It is also important to consider the stages of one’s life such as pregnancy or breastfeeding.
As individuals, we need to be aware of our bodies; we must notice if we are always tired or if we are losing weight or muscle mass. “What we eat is analyzed because there is a tendency now to eliminate starches and fats and increase our protein intake. When we say balance and proper eating, we refer to all nutrients, each in their proper amount, taking one’s age, gender and physical activity, among others, into consideration,” the specialist explains.
The nutritionist warns that carbohydrates are a must to include in your diet, “They are the main source of energy and today, everyone has decided to eliminate them. I have been planning diets for thirty years now and I am convinced more every day that a diet without them is not a proper one. If you eat a lot of protein and do not include carbohydrates, you will lose out on the protein you eat.
She also warns against a situation that has become generalized. “We often go for what is easy. It is easier for me to drink a milkshake than to grill meat, make a salad and bake potatoes. It tastes better to drink that than to take a bottle of pills. What do people who are wealthy, have a good job and poor health win if they don’t take just ten minutes to eat properly? The element of the pleasure of eating gets lost. It is better to leave those milkshakes for very special occasions.
The excess consumption of supplements can be toxic. Taking them in high doses can cause fatigue, sleepiness, exhaustion and nausea. This is why, “You have to learn to read the labels very well and understand that they should be taken according to the advice of a physician.”
With some vitamins, excess consumption is not an issue because they are eliminated in urine, “What are just throwing away money. If all I need is half a pill of vitamin B complex, why take three?” In some cases, however, this intoxication can affect the kidneys, the thyroid, the skin or cause vision problems. “A healthy and balanced diet that includes all the nutrients, is a proper diet. It’s true that not everyone has a y diet, but it is better to be careful, take things with moderation and not waste your health or your money,” she concludes. •
Things to consider for special populations
With children, the pediatrician and nutritionist are to work hand in hand to decide whether there is a health condition that may lead them to lose their appetite. “There are products in the market that are rich in zinc and in other substances that stimulate the appetite, but if the child eats fruits, vegetables and dairy products, they will get what they need. If the child does not consume these items because by no means do they want to eat, the pediatrician is to provide indications on how to give them the supplement,” states the nutritionist, María Elena Giraldo Marín.
Due to difficulties with chewing (sometimes because of missing teeth), digestive problems or due to surgeries or other diseases, supplements may become necessary. “In these situations, supplements are recommended because we have to be careful to make sure they don’t become malnourished.”
Women in menopause
Together with the physician, it is important to assess if there is a need to make adjustments and a referral to a nutritionist so that the supplement that is needed can be provided through the diet. “The following situation happens frequently: if a woman is going to turn 40, the first thing she does is buys calcium. No. You have to see to it that a little of everything is in your diet: dairy products, meats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, grains and fats. More fiber should be consumed, as well as dried fruits and seeds.
Iron and folic acid, among other nutrients, are important for these women because, as the specialist explains, “We know that they are substances that play a role in the development of the baby.”
3 months is the authorized amount of time that INVIMA (The Colombian Food and Drug Administration Agency) has to issue the registry of a dietary supplement when it meets the health requirements.