If you’re worried about your nutrition (and in this day and age, it’s hard not to be), you may have looked into the wonderful world of dietary supplements. In fact, odds are you already take them! According to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of the US adult population takes at least one dietary supplement daily, up from around 40% in the early 90s.
However, if you’re still a member of the uninitiated, you may be wondering what the big deal is. If you eat right and exercise, why would you need supplements? Does the other half know something that you don’t? We’ve consulted with our very own in-house medical advisor, Dr. Debby Hamilton, MD, MSPH, to find out why she believes supplements are beneficial for everyone.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of Americans are not getting all of the vitamins and minerals they require for their bodies to function at their best. This is a problem no matter who you are, but it’s especially dangerous during times of crucial development, such as childhood and pregnancy. There are many factors contributing to our nutritional deficits, many of which aren’t under our control:
Poor diet choices
If you’re eating ramen noodles every night for dinner, it should be no surprise that you’re probably not meeting your nutritional requirements. However, it’s not always that obvious. A bagel for breakfast probably seems like a better idea than the danish you really wanted, but it’s still sorely lacking in vitamins and minerals. A lot of us could be doing better when it comes to food choices, but sometimes busy schedules and limited access mean that we simply have to do the best we can.
Declining quality of food
Even if you’re making an effort to introduce more nutrient-rich foods into your diet, you may still be falling short thanks to the overall decline in food quality in the United States. More and more of our food undergoes processing, which can strip away nutrients. What’s more is that many of our fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in nutrient-deficient soils, leading to nutrient-deficient produce.
And to top it all off, the use of genetic modification in our everyday consumer crops (think corn, soy, sugar and canola) means GMOs sneaking into the non-organic foods we eat and wreaking havoc on human health. Even with the best of intentions, it can be completely out of our hands whether or not we get what we need.
Poor digestive health
Sometimes, the problem is internal. If your digestive system isn’t at peak performance you may have trouble absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. Taking too many antacids, for instance, may block the stomach acids necessary for proper digestion. Also, it’s important to note that your immune and digestive systems are inextricably linked (more than 70% of your immunity resides in your gut!). If you are sick or stressed, the pressure on your immune system will definitely make an impact on your digestion as well.
In today’s modern and industrialized world, there are nutritional gaps in our diet that can be difficult to fill despite our best efforts. Taking supplements doesn’t mean you can stop caring about the foods you eat, but thankfully it does mean your health doesn’t have to suffer when circumstances outside your control prevent you from getting the nutrition you need.