Nutritional supplements — are they for you?

By Jessica George
Flapjack Chronicle

In today’s society, obesity is a growing epidemic that is slowly killing millions of Americans.  Instead of changing habits from bad eating to healthy eating, many over-weight Americans are using supplements in substitute for a nutritious diet.  Is that a good idea?
“Following a healthy diet is the most effective approach to fitness and health,”  Humboldt State’s nutrition expert Kathy Munoz says.

Supplements are available everywhere from grocery stores, pharmacies, the internet, by mail, and even health food stores.
They are something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.
They are available in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form.  They can be vitamins, minerals,  and herbs.  Some energy drinks contain essential vitamins and amino acids, but due to the fact that they don’t have the correct amount needed makes them unhealthy for the human body.

Supplements might be found in food or drinks, but they should never be considered a substitute for food.
“If there are any deficiencies in the diet then supplements should be considered.  For example: lack of calories, vitamins, and/or minerals,”  fitness coach Angela Dendas explains.  If you have a condition that prevents you from consuming an adequate diet, then supplements may be necessary.
“If you are allergic to cow’s milk, a calcium supplement may be warranted,” says Munoz.
However, the body does need certain supplements that it can’t produce on its own, such as fatty acids.  Linoleic acid in the omega-6 family and alpha-linoleic acid in the omega-3 family.  Omega-3 fatty acids also contain eicosapentaenioc acid and docosahexaenioc acid, which are usually lacking in the western diet.  By taking fish oil, you are helping put these healthy, needed oils in your body.

Also probiotics are an essential need for the body to stay healthy and thrive.

“Probiotics, known as beneficial bacteria, live in the intestinal track and help aid the digestive process.  They are thought to increase the bodies resistance to infection and support immune function,” says Dendas.
Supplements help increase peoples health and well-being, but some supplements can be misleading and not be as healthy as thought to be.
Energy drinks are said to contain supplements and claim to be healthy for you.  Taurine is an amino acid produced by your body naturally and helps with muscle contractions, heartbeat regulation, and energy levels.
Unless under a great amount of stress, the body creates enough on its own so drinking energy drinks and consuming more isn’t necessarily good, nor needed for the body.
L-Carnitine is another amino acid created naturally by the body and is also found in energy drinks.  It is known to increase weight loss and build up endurance, but it is also being debated wether or not it should be taken via supplement unless someone has an unusual diet and is in need of it.
“Fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in the body and can result in toxicity.  Megadose (more than 10 x the RDA) of vitamin A has been shown to reduce bone strength, cause headaches and liver damage, and may cause birth defects if taken while pregnant in excessive doses,” GNC representative Rob Torres says.
Experts agree that taking too much of anything can result in toxic harm to your body.
Supplements should only be taken if consulted with a doctor first and are needed to stay healthy.  Always lean more towards a nutritional diet full of vegetables, meats, grains and fish before resulting to taking supplements to make up for the needed vitamins and minerals.

“Some people just don’t take the time to eat correctly or have such hectic schedules that they are too busy to cook low fat healthy foods,” Munoz states.

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