Food Supplements_1: Do we need them? If so, which ones and how many?

Article by Solongevity Research
How many people have felt stuck in front of food supplement shelves in the pharmacy or supermarket or herbalist shop, guessing “how many products … how can I choose?“. The answer is not trivial at all. Before getting there, let’s start from a statement: there is no universal dietary supplement, valid for everyone and forever. With this article, we being a little journey into the complex world of dietary supplementation, with the ambition to provide a sort of consumer operational guide: in each issue, we address a different topic by providing insights, tips and criteria to empower your capability to assess current product proposal as well as its accelerated innovation speed. Rather than focusing on the product choice and even before, wondering which are the best dietary supplements for your specific needs, the first question to be answered is ” do I really have to integrate my daily diet?” . Asking for a professional help is the best way to answer as well as when to use supplements and to what extent.
There is no universal dietary supplement strategy, valid for everyone and forever

Food supplements, when to get them?

Pressured by advertisement, many people are confident that taking more vitamins and minerals will make them feel better. But most of us already take the right amount of many micronutrients through our daily meals: over-adding nutritional principles does not give a real advantage to our metabolism, which will tend to eliminate the surplus. In some conditions, excess or long lasting consumption of certain types of vitamin supplements or other micronutrients (iron, calcium and even vitamin C) can even have adverse effects. Moreover, some elements, if combined in the wrong way, cancel out their benefits. In addition, it is really important to be self-conscious. Most likely, what we need in some moments of our life is not a single product but a balanced plan of food supplementation, able to evolve in sync with our needs. The advice, therefore, is to turn first to the general practitioner and then to a nutrition professional for setting up a specific examinations plan to assess any deficits linked to individual age, gender, dietary style, physical condition and any pre-pathological conditions or diseases. And, not least, goals.

Food supplements and Age

Age must be taken into account when drawing up a dietary supplementation plan, because it may suggest a specific type of supplementation. Young children and menopausal women and the elderly, for example, may need help with vitamin D supplementation. For the elderly, again, it must considered typical age-related  deficiencies, such as the difficulty in absorbing vitamin B12 or the dramatic reduction (less 40% between 40 and 70 years) of NAD, a coenzyme involved in many metabolic reactions and able to protects against the harmful action of free radicals.  Needs, metabolism, hormonal balance change with the passage of time: the dietary supplementation plan should mirror this evolution.

Food supplements and Gender

The gender also impacts the drafting of the supplementation plan: males and females may have different needs in terms of quantity and type of substances. These differences are accentuated when certain physiological conditions occur, such as pregnancy or menopause.
Health and nutrition professionals should lead the development of a customised dietary supplement by taking into account age, gender, physical condition, any medical conditions and goals.

Food supplements and Physical condition

The dietary supplementation plan must take into account the lifestyle habits (for example veganism and vegetarianism) and the physical condition (even a food intolerance can make a difference). It is also necessary to take into account if there are any pre-pathological conditions to target or already established pathologies. In the latter case, the disease itself or the drugs used can influence the bioavailability of nutrients.

 

Food supplements and Goals

Once collected the overall health profile of the subject, the last piece of info is about individual goals to be able to draft of a good dietary supplementation plan. The key question is “what do I want to achieve?”. From improving cognitive performance at a time of particular fatigue or in anticipation of a period of intense work, to helping recovery in the post-Covid era, as many people experience cognitive deficits for several months after the disease. Still, our goal could be to improve our sports performance, perhaps to slow the loss of muscle mass typical of age. Or take supplements to delay the effects of time on the skin, boost immunity, fight inflammation, and so on. Based on the answer we will proceed with the choice of products and dosages consistent with the purpose.  

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