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Should you take a dietary supplement to prevent disease?

A healthy diet comes first

Adding supplements only makes sense for some of us, experts say, such as the elderly, pregnant women, breastfeeding babies and people who have certain diseases or conditions that affect absorption of nutrients, potentially resulting in nutritional deficiencies.In fact, mitigating nutritional deficiencies is where supplements “are best utilized” according to Craig Hopp, deputy director of the division of extramural research at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the US National Institutes of Health.

These days, there are plenty of pills out there offered by your local pharmacy to cure what ails you. But you can never be too sure that the products pushed on us by the food and drug administration are the best thing for you. A lot of these pills have side effects, and some of them are not tolerated well by certain people.

To that end, there are numerous alternative health supplements offered that can help your body get into the best shape it’s ever been. Here are the facts on some of them:

Coral calcium- This supplement is great to help your body. You probably know that your body needs calcium to maintain its bones and teeth, but most people don’t realize that you need a certain level of calcium in your bloodstream as well.

If you don’t keep replenishing this calcium, your body will begin to sap the calcium from your bones and teeth to maintain the level in your blood. This can result in bone and teeth shrinkage, and can make them brittle and cause movements to be painful. Coral calcium is a source of calcium that surpasses most of the others. Available in supplement form, coral calcium can be a great buy.

Another one of the alternative health supplements offered is fish oil. Harvested from fatty fish, this oil contains substances known as omega-3 essential fatty acids. Containing the fatty acids DHA and EPA, fish oil has been linked to memory improvement and general brain health, considering DHA is a substance that needs to maintain its presence in the brain. Also, the American Heart Association recommends that you take fish oils to help maintain heart health. It can help to decrease your risks of heart disease or cardiac arrest!

Where supplements make sense

Here’s where supplements can come in handy, according to guidelines from national health organizations. Before you add any supplements to your diet, however, meet with a health care provider who can determine what is best for you based on your individual health history and lifestyle habits.

Vegans: Vegans of any age are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because vitamin B12 is not produced by plants. If you are a vegetarian, especially a vegan, you should ingest a reliable vitamin B12 source, such as fortified foods or supplements.

Pregnant women: During pregnancy it’s important to get an adequate amount of folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects, as well as iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and vitamin C.

Postmenopausal women: If you are postmenopausal or at risk for osteoporosis and you avoid dairy and other food sources of calcium like almonds, tofu or canned salmon with bones, consider a calcium and vitamin D supplement, to help keep bones strong and reduce bone loss.

Supplement savvy: What to look out for:

Because supplements are regulated as food and not drugs, they don’t have to prove that they are safe or even that they work before they are sold in stores. Be a savvy consumer by following this guidance: Avoid mega doses, and look for 100% of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals. 

Look for certifications from a third party regulator. The USP logo “is a pretty good indication of a company who is trying to produce a high-quality product,” Hopp said.

Instead of taking a supplement because you think it can prevent a disease, talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist about what can.

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