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Be cautious with health supplements

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Health supplements, also known as dietary supplements are a common fad. They come as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids and a multitude of other formulations. There are over 50,000 supplements available, most if not all claiming some health benefits. All this is fueled by an insatiable craze to swallow anything claiming to be natural, resulting into a multi-billion dollar industry.

You need to know that supplements aren’t as rigorously regulated as pharmaceutical drugs. Many regulatory authorities treat supplements as foods rather than medications. Thus manufacturers of supplements do not have to prove that their products are safe or effective before putting them into the market. Some supplement manufacturers however adhere to good manufacturing practices, and can claim some measure of quality. You will see some products displaying a seal of quality from recognized testing authorities. The rest are open to disputable claims of what they put on the label.

But is popping pills into your guts every day worth your health? Supplements are not intended to treat or even prevent disease. They are meant to provide nutrients not otherwise consumed in sufficient quantities. They have limited value to those who already take a balanced diet. Claims of ‘magic cures’, ‘totally natural’, ‘completely safe’ are just overblown marketing gimmicks. Some studies have shown that over 90 percent of health claims with supplements are incorrect. Harm from supplements is real. Over-consumption can lead to liver damage, some ingredients can cause severe adverse effects and some contaminants in supplements have even led to deaths.

If you want to take supplements, do some fact finding first. What benefits are you looking for? Can the claimed health benefits be substantiated in some way? If you are already taking other medicines, please check with your doctor if the supplement can safely be combined with your prescription medicines. Some supplements can have adverse interactions with prescription medicines and cause serious harm. Carefully read the label to see what ingredients are contained in the supplement. Some products will contain more or less of the ingredients listed, while others will contain stuff that is not even listed! Analysis of some supplements has come up with disgusting contaminants that have included rodent feces and urine.

Supplementation is important in certain health conditions. But research has shown little benefit, and in some cases, there is evidence of harm with unselected use of supplements. If you are in good health and already eating a balanced diet, taking a load of supplements is questionable. Trying to counter your unhealthy habits with miracle supplements isn’t going to cure your ills. Better direct your efforts and money to more proven ways of staying healthy. The next batch of supplements you ingest without due diligence may be your undoing.

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