What are dietary supplements?
The idea behind food supplements, also called dietary or nutritional supplements, is to deliver nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities. Food supplements can be vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other substances delivered in the form of pills, tablets, capsules, liquid, etc. Supplements are available in a range of doses, and in different combinations. However, only a certain amount of each nutrient is needed for our bodies to function, and higher amounts are not necessarily better. At high doses, some substances may have adverse effects, and may become harmful. For the reason of safeguarding consumers’ health, supplements can therefore only be legally sold with an appropriate daily dose recommendation, and a warning statement not to exceed that dose.
Who needs food supplements?
Supplements are not substitution for a balanced healthy diet. A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, adequate protein, and healthy fats should normally provide all the nutrients needed for good health. Most European countries agree that messages aimed at the general public should focus on food-based dietary guidelines. Supplements do not feature in these guidelines, but there are certain population groups or individuals who may need advice about supplements, even when they eat a healthy balanced diet, i.e. women of childbearing age, individuals on specific medications.
Partly due to our modern lifestyle, not everyone manages to eat healthy diet. In Europe, dietary surveys have suggested that there are suboptimal intakes for several micronutrients and found inadequate intakes for vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, selenium and iodine.9 A recent comparison of national surveys showed widespread concern about vitamin D intakes, whereas certain age groups are more likely to have low intakes of minerals.
Why take a multivitamin?
There are lots of good reasons to take multivitamins. Even the best eating plans can fall short of meeting all of the 40-plus nutrients you need each day. Most Americans fail to meet dietary recommendations for many reasons, including strict dieting, poor appetite, changing nutritional needs, or less-than-healthy food choices. Taking a once-daily multivitamin is an easy way to fill in small nutritional gaps. Healthy eating remains the best source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. A multivitamin is not a substitute for healthy food or a healthy lifestyle, but it can provide a nutritional back-up for a less-than-ideal diet. If your diet eliminates whole food groups or you don’t eat enough variety of foods you would benefit from a once-daily multivitamin. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified calcium, vitamin D, dietary fiber, and potassium as nutrients of concern for inadequate intake in adults and children. All of these nutrients, except fiber, come packaged in a multivitamin. Fiber can be obtained as a separate supplement, but it's still best to try to get all your fiber from the foods you eat. Although some evidence questions the benefit of a daily multivitamin and its ability to stave off disease, many people add them to their diet to maintain or boost health.
What is evening primrose oil?
Evening primrose oil is the oil derived from the seeds of the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) plant.Often abbreviated to EPO, evening primrose oil is a rich source of omega-6 essential fatty acids. In particular, it contains one known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is also found in other plant-based oils.
Evening primrose oil contains linoleic acid as well as GLA - both are essential components of myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers, and the neuronal cell membrane. Commercial preparations of evening primrose oil are typically standardized to 8% GLA and 72% linoleic acid. The recommended dose of evening primrose oil is 8 to 12 capsules a day, at a dose of 500 mg each capsule.
Treatment with oral evening primrose oil was found in research to give partial correction of an essential fatty acid abnormality associated with eczema (which is also known as atopic dermatitis).
There is mixed placebo-controlled evidence for evening primrose oil efficacy against eczema, but a meta-analysis of nine trials showed the best effects were against the symptom of itching, although the findings were sponsored by a manufacturer of evening primrose oil supplements. Another review has suggested a limited role for supplementation in some patients with eczema - those who do not use high-potency steroids. Evening primrose oil's effect was reduced in people who used steroids, although again the author of the analysis was working for a commercial producer. Eczema may be effectively treated with conventional medicines but complementary alternatives such as evening primrose oil and borage oil are tried by people who have inadequate improvement or fear side-effects.
Nerve pain (neuropathy) associated with diabetes has been treated with evening primrose oil, when conventional treatments such asantidepressants have not worked or have been unsuitable. Although some sources say there is insufficient evidence, beneficial results have been shown in clinical trials, and taking evening primrose oil for 6 to 12 months may improve the symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes. Evening primrose oil has been taken with fish oil and calcium by older people with osteoporosis and the combination seemed to decrease bone loss and increase bone density. More research is needed to determine the role evening primrose oil itself might play independently of the other supplements.
What is Omega 3 Fish oil?
Omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s) are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a number of functions in the body. Some types of omega-3s are found in foods such as fatty fish and shellfish. Another type is found in some vegetable oils. Omega-3s are also available as dietary supplements.
There has been a substantial amount of research on supplements of omega-3s, particularly those found in seafood and fish oil, and heart disease. The findings of individual studies have been inconsistent. There is some evidence that omega-3s found in seafood and fish oil may be modestly helpful in relieving symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis. Fish liver oils (which are not the same as fish oils) contain vitamins A and D as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
The three principal omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA can be converted, usually in small amounts, into EPA and DHA in the body. EPA and DHA are found in seafood, including fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, and trout) and shellfish (e.g., crab, mussels, and oysters).Commonly used dietary supplements that contain omega-3s include fish oil (which provides EPA and DHA) and flaxseed oil (which provides ALA). Algae oils are a vegetarian source of DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a number of bodily functions, including muscle activity, blood clotting, digestion, fertility, and cell division and growth. DHA is important for brain development and function. ALA is an “essential” fatty acid, meaning that people must obtain it from food or supplements because the human body cannot manufacture it.