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Nutrition and food in general have a strong influence on a person’s health status. Research has demonstrated that certain ailments are more prevalent when nutrients lack in a person’s diet than when the nutrients in question are present (Berman 2003). With this in mind, companies and even governments have sought for a solution elsewhere. The answer, for the time being, has been the inclusion of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements may be food or drugs, ingested to provide certain nutrients which may be lacking in a person’s diet. They are substances eaten or drank and include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and even herbs that help improve a person’s diet. They come in different forms, as liquids, powder, capsules or even pills (Berman 2003). They are also known as food supplements or nutritional supplements. Dietary supplements come in handy only for people who lack nutrients in their diets. Vegetarians and vegans fall in this category. In light of their dietary affiliation, they more often than not find themselves in dire need of certain crucial and necessary nutrients, as they cannot get them from their diets. However, for people who adhere comprehensively to the recommended dietary requirements, they have little or no use of these substances. This essay discusses the emerging issue that is dietary supplements and highlights on some of their benefits and drawbacks and the involvement of the government in this issue.
The popularity of dietary supplements cannot be underestimated. According to the government statistics, half of the adult population in the United States has been or is currently using dietary supplements. This information points out that dietary supplements have many benefits. It is not a question. However, in the backdrop of these benefits lie risks. They can prove to be a health hazard if not used properly. What is alarming is that some of the supplements included in research studies have not lived up to the public’s expectations. According to statistics, most of these supplements have no scientific backing as regards the claims made on their benefits (Porter 2003). Nevertheless, most supplements are useful enough if not effective in managing related conditions and deficiencies.
Benefits and Risks
Dietary supplements have made a name in solving most nutrient-deficiency related ailments and diseases. They are a revelation for those who suffer from health conditions which result in the deficiencies in certain nutrients. For instance, people who are lactose intolerant frequently suffer from calcium deficiency. Use of calcium supplements by such individuals guards against deficiency of this crucial micronutrient, which is essential for bone formation (Porter, 2003). Dietary supplements are also beneficial for those who are looking to adhere to certain food groups without posing a risk to their health. Such people as vegans who do not eat any animal products or by-products can get nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and proteins, from dietary supplements. Dietary supplements also help in managing and treating certain diseases and defects. Expectant women, for example, take folic acid. It reduces the risk of the fetus suffering from spina bifida and other birth defects (Berman 2003).
Despite their contribution into maintaining and reinstating a healthful life, dietary supplements may also come with side effects (especially if overdosed). For countries such as the United States with closely monitored production, it could even result to more problems (Berman, 2003). Taking more than 100% of the dosage of these supplements can result in the dire consequences. Vitamins A and D, taken in larger than recommended doses and over a long period, accumulate to toxic levels. Likewise, when vitamin C, used as a supplement, is overdosed, it causes diarrhea. Apart from these, recurrent use of vitamin B6 supplement is injurious to the nerves. Research has also demonstrated that using supplements while taking medication could pose a health risk (Porter, 2003). Some dietary supplements may also have side effects prior to, during, or even after a surgical operation.
In the light of the sensitivity that surrounds the use of dietary supplements, the United States government has enacted laws that govern and regulate their production, distribution, and usage. Through the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the government oversees and regulates the use of this group of foods (Berman 2003). Manufacturers do not need to get approval from the FDA to begin manufacturing the supplements. However, when the products exhibit side effects on the users, FDA takes action and may ban the product from the market or issue a health advisory to the public. Other functions of the FDA include quality control, to ensure the products do not have impurities. It is also the duty of the FDA to ensure that manufacturers give truthful information on their product labels. Manufacturers are required to present all reports on the hazardous effects of their products to the FDA. The government has also put in place dietary supplements current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) to regulate production, testing, quality control and distribution.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure is a condition in which a patient’s blood pressure is higher than normal (normal is 120/80 on average). Under this condition, the blood pressure exceeds a diastolic normal maximum of 90 and a systolic normal maximum of 150. This condition is a result of interference with the normal circulation of the blood in the heart and its flow through the blood vessels. When blood vessels clog, high blood pressure may occur. The resultant effect of this is that the cardiac muscles are overworked, predisposing the patient to further complications including heart failure. High blood pressure is managed through regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids. A daily dosage of three grams of this dietary supplement is enough to put the patient on the road to recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids have other noteworthy contributions in the body regarding health. They reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, aid in managing and controlling diabetes, and guard against the risk of suffering from diabetes among other diseases. When a patient is taking this supplement, it is advisable that they do not take it together with another prescription on the side. Notably, omega-3 fatty acids do not cure one of high blood pressure, but rather help the patient manage the condition. One of its side effects is that it influences the level of the risk of suffering from bleeding disorders. Large doses of the supplement may also lead to macular degeneration. Overall, when taken in the right dosage and under the supervision of a physician, omega-3 fatty acids can prove to be tremendously beneficial.
Taking in the dietary supplements requires a lot of discipline. The supplements must be taken in the right dosage and patience is a crucial virtue while awaiting the results. When a dietary supplement causes side effects, the patient should refrain from taking the supplements. People who are under dietary supplements need to be in close contact with their doctors. This is to ensure they get the desired benefits out of these products.