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12- Mar-2015

Dietary Supplements: Five vital points to check before you start*

Add nutritional value to diet

A balanced diet with essential nutrients keeps us healthy. Nutrition is obtained from different kinds of food. However, it is not always possible to eat right, especially when on the go if one is trying to lose weight. Supplements and vitamins cover any deficiencies and provide nutrition essential to the body.

The FDA holds dietary supplements as products for consumption that contain “dietary ingredients” that enhance nutritional value, and supplement the diet. A "dietary ingredient" may be a single component or a combination of a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, herb, or other botanical ingredients, an extract, metabolite, constituent, or concentrate.Reams of online and media information is available on the varied categories of nutritional and dietary supplements. It can often leave one confused about what supplements are right to aid weight loss or for optimal nutrition to ensure good health.

Dietary supplements are available as capsules, tablets, liquids, soft gels, dried herbs, nutritional oils, gel caps, or powders. While some dietary supplements help a person obtain sufficient quantity of essential nutrients, others help counter certain conditions or diseases, while yet other supplements aid the weight loss process.

Vitamins and herbal supplements are gaining importance in daily diet, thanks to hectic lifestyles of people globally with limited time to meeting standards of optimal nutrition, especially when on a weight loss routine. The online and offline media has a flood of reports about supplements with miraculous ability to cure chronic diseases and significantly change lives. However, it is vital to know if a particular supplement or vitamin is either necessary or even right for us. Before opting for any nutritional or dietary supplement, which may claim to offer health benefits or weight loss, establishing the products’ genuineness is important. Unregulated products, especially those bombarding one online, can adversely affect health. Ideally, a nutritionist, dietician or medical health professional must be consulted, or vigilant research conducted either offline or online about the different products available for proper nutrition or for targeted goals of weight loss or gain, height gain, hair growth or any other personal requirement.

With dietary supplements gaining immense popularity in recent times, especially for weight loss, numerous indigenous and imported products have flooded the market. While some health supplements are genuine and provide health benefits or aid weight loss, many others completely deceive customers with false or unsubstantiated online information on nutritional value, extract ratios, and sell products simply based on exaggerated or misleading advertising. It is important to realize that most supplements do not have to undergo the strict testing procedures and parameters necessary for over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines. Therefore,the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not closely regulate these.It is imperative to take utmost care before selecting any supplement, especially those recommended for weight loss.

Though dietary supplements are available in regular drug stores, people prefer to buy products online due to convenience and the wide range of choices available for weight loss or regular nutrition. However, it is important to consider a few things before purchasing any weight loss aid,nutrition or health supplements.

  • Research the supplement thoroughly, online or offline,before purchase and use.Check whether the seller provides complete information on the products. No substantiated information means doubtful ownership or quality.

  • Find out whether the products are Indian or imported. Imported products are usually priced higher but there is no way to cross check the seller’s authenticity or accountability. Many sellers misguide people by misleading advertising.Numerous Indian companies have now started supplying authenticated and duly approved herbal and nutritional supplements directly for the benefit of customers.

    Inaugural Offers on Premium Product Line of Health & Nutrition Supplements to Promote Total Wellness and Optimal Body Function.

  • Check whether the nutrition products being offered are manufactured in GMP plants, which are safer as these plants need to follow strict manufacturing guidelines with proper quality checks maintained during manufacture.

  • Check the reputation of the seller for customer service.Clear and functional contact details should be available for buyers to send their queries and service requests. Apart from telephone numbers, online queries with an interactive or an email mechanism should be present.

  • Check with your doctor or health provider before opting for any supplements or nutrition related product. Doctors and dieticians actively prescribe herbal and natural products for preventing as well as managing serious ailments such as high cholesterol, heart diseases, cancer, rheumatism, insomnia, stress, and kidney issues,just to name a few. Some examples of supplements include omega-3fish oil, grape seed extract, and nettle leaf tea. It is advisable to be extra careful about consuming supplements that may adversely affect a person’s peculiar health concerns, especially during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or before a surgery.

  • Check whether the nutritional supplements are natural or chemically derived. Such chemically derived products may have serious side effects and can be harmful for human health, even though they may be slightly less expensive to purchase. However, the more expensive natural products are largely safe for consumption.

Different types of supplements are available in various forms. Capsules are considered the most easy to consume.Given religious and ethical concerns, vegetarian capsules are available. For overall nutrition, health and particularly for hair health, nutritional oils can be applied externally on the scalp or other food grade ones can be consumed. Dried herbs can be steeped as tea for various health benefits, of which those intended for weight loss see maximum consumer interest. Omega-3 supplements are usually available as soft gel capsules to prevent oxidation and to mask the strong flavour. Supplements of various natural plant and animal derived origins available as extracts are pure, more potent than powder sand contain no fillers.Other supplements, available as powders, can be a little inconvenient to consume, since they need to be prepared by mixing in water or juices. Different forms of supplements are available, and a wide range of sources available for their purchase, so choose wisely, and live healthy.

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Dt. Maithili Pashtekar, Registered Dietician ,P.G.Dip Clinical Nutrition
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