Nutritional supplements shouldn't really be necessary if we eat a healthy diet!
That may have been a true statement 20-30 years ago, but since the day of the introduction of the first supermarket, the way our food is grown, transported and stored has changed.
Nutrient content of modern food is compromised due to soil erosion, processing, pollution, and changes in farming methods.
We must now intake more fruits and vegetables in a day than most of us are capable of consuming. Indeed it is only recently that the recommendation of eating our "5 a day" fruit and vegtables has turned to "7 a day".
When the baby boomers were children, the majority of fruit and vegtables were grown in the U.K. and bought at the local greengrocery store. We bought fruit and vegtables in season, we didn't expect to have strawberries or asparagus at Christmas time.
Now however our food comes from all over the world. It's grown to look perfect, in size and colour with heavy use of pesticides rather than rich in vitamins and nutrients. We can no longer depend on what we eat to give us the amount of vitamins and nutrients our bodies need no matter how healthy we think our diet is.
Research has shown that nutritional supplements can be valuable at different stages in our lives. Not everyone has the same stable consistent requirement for nutrients throughout life. Due to biochemical individuality, habit and lifestyle we may have a greater need for certain compounds; smokers needing extra vitamin C, pregnant women needing folic acid, vegetarians and vegans needing vitamin B12 to name but a few.
Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, convalescents, women at various stages, children and adolescents may have an increased need so that higher intakes may be required.
For a variety of reasons many people are not even reaching the RDAs (recommended daily allowances) for specific nutrients. There are factors which can contribute to this such as:
As we grow older nutritional supplements may help where we have specific health concerns such as heart disease, high cholestrol and arthritis. Supplements can also be useful for protecting us against the ageing process and some of the diseases that we fear the most such as cancer and mental illnesses.
Knowing which supplements to take can be tricky, but generally most of us would benefit from taking a good all round multivitamin, essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and a probiotic to back up any shortfalls in the diet to ensure digestive and immune function is optimal. (Probiotic capsules are far more efficient than probiotic yoghurt drinks.)
Glucosamine Sulphate and Chondroitin have been found to be beneficial to people with an arthritis diagnosis together with Omega 3. A study published in the British Medical Journal recently concluded that glucosamine doesn't work, but other research suggests that glucosamine sulphate may be more effective than glucosamine hydrochloride, and many people who suffer with arthritis, myself included still swear by it.
Nutritional supplements of the B complex vitamins are vital for mental health. Vitamin B1 helps turn glucose into energy for the brain, vitamin B3 is a key nutrient for the brain and improves memory. B5 is needed to make the stress hormones and the key memory molecule acetycholine.
There has been several articles in the press recently that B12 with Folic Acid together with B6 can help protect against Alzheimers and Dementia. Folic Acid deficiency is found to be very common in patients with mental health problems.
B6 can help depression.
Ginko Biloba and Ginseng nutritional supplements can enhance memory, and improve blood flow to the brain. They can also ease depression.
Omega 3 has been found to enhance brain function, boosting mood, IQ and memory.
Selenium is a trace element found in the soil and has been found to be good protection against cancer. We used to get enough selenium in our food but modern farming techniques mean that most of us don't now get enough from our diet.
A 5 year study carried out at Cornell University and the University of Arizona, has shown that people taking a nutritional supplement of 200 mcg a day, had 63% less prostrate tumours, 58% less colorectal cancers, 46% less long malignancies and a 39% overall decrease in cancer deaths.
You should always consult your medical practioner before taking health supplements particularly if you're on regular prescribed medications.