Food Supplements – Consumer Guide

Food supplements – do you need them? How do you choose the right ones for your health conditions? Read these general rules to protect yourself.

Food supplements are one of the hottest selling products in the market these days. Their total consumption values billions of dollars in the U.S. alone. Recent surveys show that more than half of the adults in the U.S. consume food supplements in different forms, such as tablets, capsules, powders, soft gels, gel caps and liquids.

The increased consumption of food supplements can be attributed to public awareness of health issues and improved standard of living in our society. Many studies have shown that there is a close correlation between health and nutrition. Insufficient supply of nutrients can weaken our body defense mechanism, causing medical problems from common ailments to more severe illnesses in the long term.

Many people argue that there is no need to consume food supplements as long as you have a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet. While this may be true, the fact is maintaining a healthy lifestyle and proper diet is difficult to achieve by many people.

The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has increased yield and shortened the growth period, but these farming practices can deplete soil nutrients and beneficial soil microorganisms rapidly, making the farm produce less nutritious than before.

A stressful lifestyle, improper eating habits, imbalanced diet and increased exposure to chemicals such as environmental pollutants (air, water) and pesticides, drugs, hormones, heavy metals in foods also weaken our body gradually.

Although food supplements can be beneficial to our health, consumers should still choose the products carefully. Here are some general rules for buying food supplements:

1) Supplements made from whole foods, natural sources are better than the synthetic ones. They are more bioactive, can be absorbed readily, and less likely to be contaminated by chemicals such as coal tars used in chemical synthesis.

2) Protein-bonded vitamins and minerals (vitamins and minerals in organic form, binding to amino acids) are more bioactive than the inorganic forms.

3) Buy supplements using safe extraction methods, such as cold pressed extraction or supercritical extraction. This can avoid the harmful residue from chemical extraction.

4) Herbal concentrate and extract are usually more effective than the raw herbs.

5) Organically grown or wild crafted herbs are less likely to be contaminated by heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals.

6) Read the labels, do not consume more than the recommended dose.

7) Be careful when consuming certain herbal supplements, such as Ma Huang / ephedra, Kava Kava, comfrey, etc. Some studies have shown that these herbs may cause severe side effects to some people. Stop use if unusual signs appear after consumption.

8) Some food supplements may interact with drugs, either by decreasing or increasing their effects. Consult your doctor if you are currently taking medications.

9) Pregnant and nursing women, people with specific medical conditions such consult the doctors when consuming food supplements.

10) If in doubt, contact the supplement manufacturers or distributors for more information of their products.

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