The human body is a complex machine, which requires various elements to function optimally, and these are delivered to it via food. The reason most doctors recommend a diet with different ingredients is that each food contains a specific micronutrient, which is essential for us. Unfortunately, despite eating healthily some individuals can suffer from deficiencies and others’ lifestyle makes them vulnerable to the reduction of certain vitamins in their body leading to complications. This is where supplements come into play, they compensate for the deficiencies, and here are some interesting facts about supplements:
1. An Old Concept
While the surge of supplements spiked near the end of the last century, there are several pieces of evidence that show that supplements have been utilized for thousands of years. Most civilizations across the world had some form of supplement that was used medically and the first-ever written record of a clay tablet that comprised opium, thyme, licorice, and mustard seeds was found in the present day of Iraq, and it is estimated to be at least 6,000 years old.
2. Not Always Tested
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, nearly 100,000 supplements are available in the United States alone, and surprisingly, a majority of them are not tested or proven successful under clinical trials. Interestingly, pharmaceutical companies found a loophole in the rules regarding the supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which was written in 1994, and since then, it has not been changed. According to the mentioned Act, companies just need to prove that their product wouldn’t harm humans, but whether or not they work is not regulated.
3. Hugely Profitable
Since companies aren’t required to conduct clinical trials, they get away from paying for most of the logistics and end up making huge profits. Currently, the supplement industry is estimated at $30 billion. Under the guidelines written by FDA, there must be at least three trials with 15 to 20 people, and on average each trial cost $41,117 per person, in total, a complete clinical trial for a medicine cost nearly $20 million, which is of course saved by pharmaceutical companies as supplements are not required to undergo clinical trials.
4. Different Types of Supplements
Presently, supplements are divided into four basic categories.
- Vitamins and Minerals- These are often recommended to people with specific deficiencies
- Specialty Supplements- Essential substances like fiber, glucosamine, and compounds that aid in health like omega-3, probiotics, and fish oil fall in this category
- Herbals and Botanicals- These are supplements derived from medicinal plants and herbs
- Sports Nutrition and Weight Management- As the name suggests, this includes sport-oriented products like whey protein and energy drinks
5. Naming Vitamin
While vitamins are the most popular form of supplements, they were not known by the general public until 1912, when Casimir Funk, a Polish biochemist introduced the word “vitamine”, which was a portmanteau of vital and amine, where amine was used to describe chemical and micronutrients. These supplements were seen to mitigate diseases that surfaced due to dietary deficiency; however, when supplements were being produced without amines, the term was later changed to vitamin.
6. Not a Substitute
From the early 1900s, humans have been intrigued by the idea of replacing food with diet pills with all the nutrients intact. Since we have not been able to produce such an extreme medicine marvel, people started to use supplements as a substitute for food. Unsurprisingly, humans need to consume a healthy diet with exercise and proper sleep to achieve good health, also, these pills are an addition to meals, and replacing food with these pills results in severe malnutrition and many diseases.
7. Herbal and Botanicals at the Top
As more people are becoming aware of what they put into their bodies, a majority of people are shifting from synthetic supplements to natural products. According to the World Health Organization, Asian and African countries consumes the most amount of herbal medicines. Moreover, in the year 2005, the herbal supplements industry made $5 billion in Europe. Presently, three-quarter of the entire world relies on herbal supplements according to Pharmacy Times.
8. Specialized Supplements for Women
Although each supplement is designed to aid in specific conditions, supplements for women over 40 are created separately as they undergo many changes after the mentioned age. Women are often vulnerable to iron, magnesium, and folic acid deficiencies, also since they require calcium and vitamin D3 in higher amounts for stronger bones, supplements are recommended to them accordingly.
9. Not limited to Adults
Similar to women, specific dietary supplements are produced for children and adolescents as well. According to the statistics by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of teenagers were using dietary supplements from 2013 to 2014, and 7% out of these are using more than two supplements. Since food should be the only source of nutrients and most of the brain development occurs during the teenage years, Dietary Guidelines for Americans has only allowed a limited number of supplements for children in the market.
10. Contains Risk
The general consensus surrounding supplements is that they are free of any risk, which is true but only when these are consumed within a limit. There have been cases of people ingesting more than the recommended dose, and landing in the emergency room. Severe cases of overdose can lead to complications such as a sudden spike in heart rate, blood sugar, and in some rare cases even death. Moreover, supplements don’t interact well with other medications. The National Institutes of Health strictly advises against the use of supplements with prescription medicine. Supplements such as vitamin K, vitamin E, and Vitamin D are known to cause reduced blood clotting, increasing the chances of hemorrhage, and heart arrhythmias, respectively.