In recent years, diet and health have been at the forefront of popular discussion. Nutrition has been shown to play a key role in the long-term health of the heart, bones, joints, eyes, and immune system (Ask The Scientists, 2021). From superfoods to five-a-day recommendations, more and more people are looking for ways to maximize their nutritional health – and dietary supplements are one of those options.
The idea behind supplements is to deliver nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient amounts (EUFIC, 2013). Popular dietary supplements come in a variety of forms and include vitamins D and B12, minerals like calcium and iron, probiotics, and fish oils (National Institutes of Health, 2020). If you are looking to apply your nutritional knowledge to counselling others, read for a guide to the role of supplements in dietary health.
Who Needs Dietary Supplements?
Generally, an individual’s nutritional needs should be met primarily through their diet (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). For some people, however, supplements may be a useful way to receive the nutrients they may lack. Stresses, medical complications, and more demanding lifestyles can all create a greater need in the body for specific minerals or vitamins (Alessi, 2017). Healthy adults who eat a variety of foods – including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean meats and fish – likely do not need supplements (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020).
On the other hand, supplements may be appropriate for those who have a poor appetite or follow a diet that excludes entire food groups (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Similarly, pregnancy or medical conditions can place additional stresses on the body that affect how one digests nutrients (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Students in a nutritionist course will learn how to evaluate the specific dietary needs of their clients and develop nutritional plans designed to meet those needs.
The Benefits of Supplements
Some supplements can help ensure that the body gets enough of the vital substances that it needs to function (FDA, 2017). More specifically, individual supplements may target specific health conditions. Calcium and vitamin D can help to reduce bone loss, folic acid can decrease the risk of certain birth defects, and Omega-3 fatty acids may help some people with heart disease (National Institutes of Health, 2020). Similarly a combination of vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, and lutein may slow down further vision loss in clients with age-related macular degeneration (National Institutes of Health, 2020).
Students in a nutritionist program will learn to take a holistic approach to nutrition by identifying the root cause of deficiencies as they branch into non-nutrition areas, including depression, addiction, or past trauma. As a result, you will be able to examine the effect of a client’s body, lifestyle, and environment, and implement nutritional changes to promote their overall wellbeing.
A Look at Supplement Limitations for Those in Nutritionist College
First and foremost, supplements are not intended to replace food; they cannot replicate all of the nutritional benefits of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Whole foods offer key benefits over dietary supplements. They provide a greater source of complex nutrients, essential fibre, and protective substances such as antioxidants (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). While some clients may see substantial changes with supplements, they are not permitted to be marketed for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases (FDA, 2017). As a result, legitimate health claims cannot be made for nutritional supplements (FDA, 2017).
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Ask The Scientists (2021). Health Benefits of Nutritional Supplements. Retrieved from https://askthescientists.com/qa/health-benefits-nutritional-supplements/
National Institutes of Health (2020). What You Need to Know: Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WYNTK-Consumer/
Mayo Clinic Staff (2020). Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/supplements/art-20044894
Alessi, G. (2017). The Importance of Nutritional Supplements. Retrieved from https://www.balancedwellbeinghealthcare.com/the-importance-of-nutritional-supplements/
FDA (2017). What You Need to Know About Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-dietary-supplements
EUFIC (2013). What are Food Supplements and Who Needs Them? Retrieved from https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/food-supplements-who-needs-them-and-when