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Do we need dietary supplements?
Perhaps to complement our workouts, recover from certain chronic illnesses, or just for a healthier body.
Some people may not need it if they have been practicing a healthy and balanced diet all the time. While some felt the need to give extra nutrients to their body.
Are we actually aware of the side effects of dietary supplements that may impact our body in long term? What are the possible hidden dangers of these supplements?
This is what I am going to share with you.
Can Dietary Supplements Do Harm To Your Body?
A lot of people are taking all these supplements (minerals, vitamins, herbs, amino acids, or enzymes) for added nutrients to their bodies. It can be taken in soft gels, capsules, tablets, powder, or liquid forms.
It is beneficial for your health but do you know any possible side effects of taking it on a long-term basis?
I’m sure there are!
Most dietary supplements are not widely tested as claimed by many professors and health experts in the field of public health and medicine.
According to an article released by the US FDA, these supplements may have health risks if taken in long run. Most of the supplements in the market may not be approved by the US FDA for their safety and effectiveness, although are manufactured in a US FDA-approved GMP facility.
Research from the John Hopkins University had reviewed some of these supplements are basically useless and may not increase lifespan or reduce the risk of certain diseases.
That means we need to be more aware of the possible health risk factors that may cause side effects to us.
What are the popular supplements that may contribute to health risks to your body?
You will be surprised that you may be consuming them now and then.
Here they are,
1. Beta Carotene
Beta Carotene belongs to a group of orange, red, and yellow pigments called carotenoids.
What is it good for? Makers of beta carotene had claimed can prevent heart diseases, certain types of cancers like lung cancer, and cataracts.
This pigment can be found in various food sources like fruits, vegetables, and grains.
For cigarette smokers, this supplement should be avoided at all costs. It has been associated with the risk of lung cancer for those who smoke or have been exposed to asbestos.
Even though beta carotene acts as an immune booster and antioxidant, it is a NO for smokers!
Calcium as we know is a good mineral for stronger bones and growing new bones.
What is it good for? It is no doubt that are good supplements to treat osteoporosis. There is also good evidence suggesting that calcium may prevent certain cancers and (#Ad)control high blood pressure.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt; vegetables; soy products; grains are some of the food sources of calcium.
Avoid using products with calcium supplements that claimed to have this ‘coral calcium’ compound. Its health benefits are unproven and may contain high levels of lead.
If you have heart or kidney diseases, not advisable to take any calcium supplements as this may cause some health issues. Check with your doctor about this.
3. Fish Oils (EPA/DHA, PUFA, OMEGA-3)
Fish oils are fat tissues that are extracted from the fishes such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, or anchovies.
Rich in EPA/DHA, PUFA, and omega-3 fatty acids with numerous health benefits claims such as supporting heart health, reducing inflammation, preventing stroke, improving symptoms of depression, aiding in weight loss, improving eye health, and many more.
They are also considered essential supplements for brain development.
If taken in excess, may increase the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in an individual.
There is a risk of prostate cancer in men with higher saturation of omega-3 in their blood.
May reduce the immunity system in the body to fight bacteria or virus infections.
It can also increase the level of inflammation and oxidative damage which may lead to chronic illnesses.
Ginkgo extract is normally used in making supplements and already gained much popularity in western countries.
What is it good for? The extract from its leaves is possibly good for treating symptoms of anxiety, improving dementia, enhancing memory and thinking, and recovering from a stroke.
It is also used to prepare medicine for reducing blood circulation in the body and treating conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking ginkgo more than the recommended dosage may cause excessive bleeding because this extract contains anti-platelet elements that make the blood thinner, thus slowing down the blood clotting process.
It should never be used together with other blood thinners such as aspirin as this may lead to eye bleeding or even brain hemorrhage for some individuals.
Ginkgo can also cause many serious cardiovascular problems like cardiac arrest, irregular heartbeat, possible stroke, and wider blood vessels.
This extract could have the potential to reduce fertility, skin rashes, inflammation, numbness, swelling, blistering, or even shortness of breath if taken more than recommended.
Kava is an extract made from a plant native called Ava Root, Ava, or Awa in the Western Pacific Islands.
Some makers of this supplement claim to treat and lower anxiety (most commonly used), stress, and a sleeping disorder like insomnia but there have never been any good scientific reports to back up these claims.
According to NCCIH, the overdose of kava supplements may have been linked to liver or kidney damage, and even organ failure. Be extra careful if the individual has Parkinson’s disease, blood disorders, or is moody all time.
This supplement if taken unprescribed in excess may also cause digestive problems, dizziness, mouth numbness, reduction of visions, loss of balance, and skin rashes.
It is reportedly been banned in Germany, Canada, and Switzerland, although warnings were issued in the US by the FDA years ago.
6. Multivitamins and minerals
They are basically a combination of varieties of vitamins and minerals that normally can be found in many natural food sources.
What is it good for? Multivitamins and minerals are used to treat many health conditions which are associated with deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. Some conditions are digestive disorders, poor nutrition, illnesses, and many more.
These guys are also good for giving the extra nutrients needed due to the insufficient amount taken from a normal diet.
Taking more than recommended may cause serious threatening health-related issues.
Some of the symptoms are severe headache and back pain, vomiting, slow heartbeat, unusual weight loss, muscle weakness, severe stomach upset, changes in menstrual periods, or possible seizures.
Just a note, vitamins A, D, E, and K cannot be taken together with calcium supplements, medicine like antacids that contain calcium substances, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
7. Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice extract is a traditional Chinese medicine extracted from the rice that had been fermented with a type of yeast. It has been used in China for a long time as traditional medicine, preservative, additive, or food coloring.
What is it good for? There are many claims about the effectiveness of red yeast rice such as treating diabetes, preventing heart diseases and cancer, lowering cholesterol, and fighting infections.
However, all of these claims have not been clinically tested or researched and it is still much debated.
May caused unusual tiredness and fever; dizziness; sudden muscle pain, weakness; loss of appetite, upper stomach pain, and yellowish colors of the eyes and skin.
Individuals with kidney or liver disease, pregnant women, or breastfeeding should avoid this supplement.
8. Soy Protein Isolate (SPI)
Soy isolate is a protein type that comes from a natural plant called soybeans. It is easy to digest and cheaper than most other sources of protein.
What is it good for? Mostly used as protein supplements (sometimes mixed with vitamins and minerals together) or as ingredients in making food.
Some people claimed are good for lowering cholesterol and risk of cancer, preventing diabetes, and kidney problems, or helping for stronger bones.
This SPI may contain unhealthy chemical substances of aluminum that were left during the isolation soy protein process.
From the USDA reports, over 90% of soybeans grown in the US are mostly modified, which means the beans are chemically processed and pesticides filled. Imagined the danger it could pose to our body if taken in long-term or overdosage.
It could also upset the stomach (difficulty in digesting the soy), especially for individuals with an intolerance to soybeans, possible hard stools, rashes or itching, and unusual tiredness.
9. St.John’s Wort
St.John’s wort is a plant that grows in the wild and widely prescribed for certain mental health conditions in Europe for centuries.
What is it good for? It is sold as a dietary supplement, and also to treat especially depression fairly in short-term effects, although it is not consistently effective in long-term treatment.
According to NCCIH, combining St.John’s wort with certain antidepressant medicine could lead to an increase of Serotonin in the body, which is a serious health-threatening issue. Note: Antidepressant medicine are targeting this substance serotonin, a brain chemical substance produced by nerve cells.
Taking St.John’s wort may also weaken the effectiveness of some prescription medicines such as birth control pills, certain heart medications, pain killer medicines, HIV/AIDS drugs prescription, blood thinners medicines, and some cancer medications.
What To Know Before Taking Any Dietary Supplements?
As a consumer, we always need to practice safety precautions at all times, especially something that is concerning our health in long term. We can’t just jump to a conclusion without knowing deeply or doing proper research first, right?
Whether is vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbal or sports supplements in the market, we know that these supplements are a huge money-making industry, over $30 billion industry. However, there is no guarantee that the makers claim that their products are effective, low risk, or even safe.
That is why we as consumers must act a little smarter by taking a few steps in considering the chances that their supplements products do have health benefits.
What Steps To Consider and How?
1. Are the supplements got tested by laboratories independently?
For example, the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) runs voluntary programs in testing and certifying the quality of the maker’s dietary supplements.
Only those that pass will have a ‘USP Verified’ seal on their products. For those who didn’t pass, their claims are unable to verify or proven.
2. Does the supplement’s claims seem too good to believe?
Beware of the product supplements that make various claims such as miracle cures, instant results, wonder, or magic pills. Some products may use evidence of personal experience or medical jargon words like glucose metabolism, thermogenesis, etc.
3. Try to find out if there is any evidence to back up the maker’s claims.
There are literally thousands of studies are already been conducted on the effect of different compounds in the human body.
It is good to find out these available resources beforehand.
For example, the NIH (National Institute of Health) has a list of fact sheets on the most consumed supplements.
If you like to research more on some supplements, try the US National Library Of Medicine, the MedlinePlus.
How about getting more crucial resources on dietary supplements from the FDA?
4. Any health warnings triggered by these dietary supplements?
The fastest way to unearth all these advisories or warnings is to check with the FDA’s web.
They have updates for consumers regarding new supplements that are newly available in the market, whether there is an advisory against them or not. Get some useful tips from the FDA on checking dietary supplement information.
You can also learn how to spot common health scams raised by the FTC.
5. Do you really need to take a dietary supplement? If Yes, in what amount?
It is good to seek consultation from your dietician, nutritionist, or healthcare experts.
They are the best person to evaluate and give you concrete advice.
Also, think about the dosage intake. Some supplements do cause health problems if taken in excess. You can always refer to NCBI’s website on the recommended dietary daily intake.
Do you agree with all the above or have a better way?
My Overall Thoughts On Side Effects Dietary Supplements
It is very difficult to separate the facts and fiction of all these supplements in terms of their health benefits.
They are not always safe or harmless. Even some claims made of ‘natural’ ingredients can be risky too to people with medical conditions or on certain medications.
A lot of research had shown that they are not 100% proven and lack enough scientific data to back up the maker’s claims. This somehow can be harmful to consumers!
As the US FDA is not authorized to review or approve any dietary supplements, it is entirely up to the makers to label the contents properly before they hit the shelves. In fact, government agencies in many countries may oversight if the makers are really complying or not.
Should I be also using supplements for my home workout? What are they and it is safe to consume? Find out on my blog HERE
NEVER take any of these supplements in high dosage unless recommended or prescribed by your medical healthcare experts. Overdose may lead to more serious health issues such as liver or kidney failures, irregular heartbeat, mental concentration, or even death!
You must follow all the directions on the label and package of the product supplements. Again, get advice from your healthcare expert about your current medical conditions, any allergies, or if currently taking any medications.
For further clarifications of the possible dangers of dietary supplements, you may want to check (1)
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Don’t forget to always Exercise at Home!
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