The world of health supplements can be a confusing one. There are so many different products to choose from, that it can be overwhelming if you’re new to it all.
Our guide is designed to provide a basic understanding of some of the benefits of taking health supplements alongside leading a healthy lifestyle.
Why do people take supplements?
Many people take supplements to improve their general health or to fight particular ailments.
Nutritional deficiencies are now commonplace in the modern Western diet, meaning that lots of people don’t get the required amount of essential nutrients and vitamins from the food that they eat. In fact, it has been reported that as many as 3.6 million people in the UK suffer from malnutrition.
Poor soil quality and mass production techniques are some of the reasons why food is no longer as nutritious as it once was. Food supplements can help to provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
People may also wish to boost levels of certain nutrients and minerals in their system in order to combat or prevent certain ailments or ailments. So how can supplements help to improve and retain our health?
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK, responsible for a third of all deaths. Naturally, many people feel the need to protect themselves as best they can, in order to reduce the chances of heart issues.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are thought to hold anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk of heart problems. Omega-3s also help to raise ‘good’ cholesterol levels, and reduce levels of triglycerides (fat stored in the body, too much of which can cause heart disease.
For this reason, we are advised to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week, in order to provide our bodies with these essential omega-3 fatty acids. Some people also like to supplement their diet in order to provide an extra boost, and so fish oil supplements are particularly popular for heart health.
Some supplements, such as glucosamine, are very popular with people who suffer from joint pain and discomfort. These include active sportspeople who may suffer pain from wear and tear to the joints.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps to support the working of the joints and connective tissues. As we age, glucosamine levels naturally decrease, meaning that the body’s connective tissues are unable to renew themselves as efficiently.
Injury can accelerate the wear and tear on the cartilage. When a joint is injured, it can become inflamed, which prevents the body from producing glucosamine effectively.
For these reasons, many people choose to take joint care supplements such as glucosamine to alleviate joint pain.
Sometimes we can’t help falling ill with a cold or the flu, but certain nutrients are thought to offer immune-boosting properties. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can provide a good intake of vitamin C, which is thought to be an important vitamin for improving immunity.
Zinc is another nutrient that is vital for immune system function, cell growth, and wound healing. Many people do not get enough zinc through their diet, and so their immune system may suffer as a consequence. Studies have shown that supplementation with zinc can be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of colds.
All cells are subjected to damage through a process called oxidation. This occurs when harmful free radical particles enter the body, either through natural internal processes, or external sources such as air pollution and cigarette smoke.
In order to overcome this, we must consume antioxidants, which help to repair the cells and prevent against oxidative damage. Many fruits and vegetables are powerful nutrient-rich antioxidants that can help to cleanse the body and protect against oxidative stress caused by free-radicals.
Selenium, available in nuts and seafood, is one of the most popular antioxidants, due to its abilities in fighting infection and cell repair. However, 20% of men and 50% of women in the UK are deficient in selenium. As a result, many people like to gain the antioxidant benefits by adding a selenium supplement to their diet.
Many people choose to take a daily multivitamin to obtain levels of the essential nutrients that the diet may not provide.
It is important to remember that supplements are just that; products to supplement your lifestyle. They shouldn’t be seen as a miracle drug, nor should they be relied upon as your sole source of nutrition. But when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise, they may help by covering any gaps left by your diet.