Food Supplements: What Are They And Who Needs Them

Whenever you reach for that bottle of fish oil or vitamin C, have you ever wondered if they are safe and how well they work? You might even ask yourself why you need to take them in the first place.

There are a lot of food supplements in the market today but the question is, who are they for? Are they beneficial or harmful to you? Who should be taking them? In this article, we would answer all these questions by walking you through the general recommendations on taking these food supplements.

What Are Food Supplements?

Food supplements can be defined as concentrated sources of nutrients taken to provide a nutritional or physiological effect. They are also known as nutritional or dietary supplements. Their intended use is to provide nutrients that are not taken in sufficient quantities as a result of poor nutrition.<

Supplements contain a higher amount of nutrients than can be found in most foods. They include vitamins (from A to K), fish oils, amino acids, fiber, essential fatty acids, plants and herbal extracts, and minerals like iron.  They are produced and available in pills, capsules, tablets, and liquids.

Food supplements are taken to correct nutritional deficiencies, to support specific physiological functions, or to maintain an adequate intake of certain nutrients. Food supplements are not medicinal products so, they cannot exert an immunological, pharmacological, or metabolic action.

Their intended use is not for the treatment of diseases. However, most food supplements have been proven to provide a lot of health benefits. Fish oils help to improve the health of the heart and food supplements containing minerals like iron could help prevent anemia.

Though food supplements are not medicinal products, they should, however, be taken according to the prescribed dosage by your dietitian. Only a certain amount of each nutrient is required for our body to function properly. High dosages end up doing more harm than good to our body system.

Who Should Take Food Supplements?

More than 60 percent of all Americans take one or more food supplements occasionally. People take these food supplements to ensure that they get sufficient essential nutrients and to improve or maintain their health.

However, not everyone needs to take these supplements. In fact, food supplements should only be taken if prescribed to you by your doctor or dietitian.

Carol Haggans, consultant to NIH and a registered dietitian said: “It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one. But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

So, who needs food supplements? First, it is important to note that taking food supplements is not a substitute for a balanced and healthy diet. A diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and adequate protein is sufficient enough to provide all the nutrients required for good health.

People with poor eating habits and low nutrition intake would need to take food supplements to make up for the inadequate nutritional content in their bodies.

However, there are certain people who might need to take supplements even though, they are eating a healthy balanced diet. One such category of people are women of childbearing age.

Research has shown that inadequate intake of iron in young women would increase the risk of infants being born with delayed brain development, iron deficiency, and low birth weight.

Folate status is also important for women of childbearing age.  All women of childbearing age should take a 400μg folic acid supplement daily.

They are usually advised to take folic acid before conception and to continue taking it for the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. An adequate folate status would decrease the risk of giving birth to a child with neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Also, in some situations, your doctor might advise you to take food supplements. For example, old people may sometimes have difficulties absorbing the nutrients needed from food and might need to take food supplements like probiotics to help aid nutrient absorption.

Supplements may also be needed for fragile bones. Pregnant women also fall into the category of people who would need to take food supplements. 

5 Major Supplements That Help Make Your Life Better

There are a number of food supplements available in the market today. Each one of them has its own specific purpose and health benefits. We would be going through a few of them, discussing what they are and what health benefits you could derive from them.

1. Relora

Relora is obtained from the combination of two Chinese tree barks. It is used to promote healthy reactions to anxiety and stress. Relora helps maintain better tranquility and mood, enhance sleep, support the adrenal system, and maintain a healthy weight by controlling your appetite.

2. Melatonin

Melatonin is found naturally in the human body. The major purpose of Melatonin in the body is to regulate day and night cycles. Darkness activates the production of more Melatonin 10mg, which makes the body less alert and an indication to prepare for sleep.

Light decreases the melatonin production level and signals the body that it is time to wake. People who have trouble sleeping possibly have low levels of Melatonin production in their body. However, taking Melatonin supplements would help address this problem. 

Melatonin supplements can also be used for endometriosis. Taking the controlled-release form of Melatonin under the supervision of a physician has been proven to help lower blood pressure for people with high blood pressure.

3. Biotin

Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin. It is also known as vitamin H and it is a part of the vitamin B family. Biotin is needed by our body to help in the conversion of certain nutrients to energy. Biotin also plays a crucial role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails.

Biotin can be gotten from the following food sources: Organ meats (kidney and liver), egg yolk, nuts (like peanuts, almonds, and walnuts), nut butter, cereals, and whole grains, soya beans, bananas, and mushrooms.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are healthy bacteria that are used in the treatment of several medical conditions such as bacterial vaginosis, atopic dermatitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and the prevention of dental caries.

Probiotics are also used in the treatment of various gastrointestinal disorders. Probiotics help digestion and improve the absorption of nutrients. Probiotics lower PH levels in the colon and also helps absorb protein in your diet.

They are used as therapy for a number of gastrointestinal diseases such as polyps and colorectal cancer, malabsorption syndromes, peptic ulcer disease (PUD), ulcerative colitis, anal fistula, IBS, GERD, diarrhea, constipation, and so on.

Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods and cultured milk. However, probiotics can also be produced and synthesized in the laboratory as probiotics supplements.

5. Turmeric curcumin

Turmeric may be the most effective food supplement in existence. Turmeric contains bioactive compounds with very powerful medicinal properties. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric curcumin is commonly used for hay fever, high cholesterol, liver disease, depression, itching, heartburn, inflammatory bowel disease, memory and thinking capability, and stress.


“Deciding whether to take a food supplement and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.”

Summarily, you do not need to take any food supplements if you are eating a balanced and healthy diet. You should also remember that taking too many supplements can be harmful and can cause unwanted side effects.

So, do not take any supplements without prescription from your doctor or dietician and ensure you take it according to the recommended dosage.