waarom-moet-je-voedingssupplementen-nemenToday many people take supplements. One chooses vitamin D3, another craves krill oil capsules, and yet another multivitamins. But why? And do they work?By: Toine Wilke, nutritionist, biochemist and seaweed expert.

Supplemention literally means 'completion'. Dietary supplements are tablets, powders and pills that may enhance your daily diet, rendering it more ‘complete’. Because everyone has a different diet, not everyone needs the same. However, it is possible to find patterns in today’s Western diet applicable to large groups of people.

Essential nutrients

After centuries of research, we now know what nutrients we need in avoiding illness. These nutrients are called essential nutrients. For each of these essential nutrients a recommended average daily allowance (RDA) or Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) has been established. If you attain the RDA or more of each individual nutrient, you may reasonably assume that you are sufficiently supporting your body.

Everyone run into a shortage sometimes

In practice, it is almost impossible to meet the RDA of each nutrient every day. For example, if you do not like fish, you will have a problem consuming important omega-3's. And if you do not eat meat, you may well have some form of vitamin B12 deficiency. Elderly and children are often deficient in vitamin D. Food supplements provide a solution for all of the above.

The RDA: A guideline

Every person is unique, all bodies are unique and at given times in your life you will need more of a substance than at other times. An RDA is a guideline: It may be that you need more. Pregnant women are advised to take folate (vitamin B11). Athletes often take more than the RDA of some vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids, because their body recovers faster as a result. Taking more than the recommended daily amount may therefore be useful under a variety of circumstances.

Maximum safe dose

Some essential nutrients have a maximum safe dose. If you structurally ingest more than this set dose, taking nutritional supplements may be harmful. This warning applies especially for fat-soluble substances. Before you start taking a supplement, it is therefore advisable to find out how much you can safely take.

In addition, in case of a medical indication it is always recommended to consult a healthcare practitioner before buying a food supplement.

Other (non-essential) nutrients

Beside essential nutrients, there are many other nutrients that may contribute in some specific ways to an optimal lifestyle. Consider specific herbal extracts such as cannabis, turmeric and resveratrol. Nutraceuticals such as R-Alpha Lipoic Acid, Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Ubiquinol are other compounds worth trying.

Get smart

Many different kinds of nutritional supplements are available on the market, even of a mundane substance like vitamin C. Information retrieved from the internet may become very technical. Sometimes it will seem overwhelming and you may not have time to sort things out to the last and latest detail. Thus, make good use of neutraceutical specialists, or see your doctor or therapist.