We regularly think about our food in terms of our body composition only, and worry how fat we are rather than the overall impact on our health.
However, food, good naturally sourced food, is a natural medicine that ensures proper bodily function and deficiency can place us at risk of a multitude of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, diabetes and many more.
Australians generally have a poor diet and lack daily requirements for a number of essential and micro-nutrients (https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/food-nutrition/poor-diet/contents/dietary-guidelines).
Micro-nutrients perform a myriad of essential functions in the body and are only required in very small amounts to be both effective and essential!
Many people turn to supplements as their first point of call if they think they are lacking or hear that certain vitamins or minerals may be good at reducing a particular ailment, rather than looking at their general food choices.
Supplements are usually micro-nutrients sold in tablet form containing essential Vitamins and Minerals.
The supplement industry in Australia is big business estimated to be worth 1.5 billion dollars! (https://www.ibisworld.com/au/market-size/vitamin-supplement-manufacturing/)
They are convenient and easily consumed.
But are they necessary? More importantly, could supplements be harmful?
The Australian Therapeutic Drugs Administration monitors the quality of vitamins and mineral supplements but does not regulate manufacturer claims about the benefits of these supplements https://www.ibisworld.com/au/market-size/vitamin-supplement-manufacturing/)
Generally, in small doses, vitamins and minerals are essential and beneficial.
However, in excess they may not only be unnecessary but cause serious harm!
Should you be using supplements? Probably not (Moses, 2021).
You should definitely speak with your GP or Pharmacist before using supplements, especially if you are already on other medications to make sure there are no negative interactions.
If you are eating a well balanced diet then you are likely getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
If you elect to avoid selected food groups such as dairy, animal proteins or vegetables as is the case with some popular diets, then you may be missing out on essential daily amounts of important micro-nutrients!
BRENDAN BARY, (B. Clinical Exercise Physiology, AEP, AES, ESSAM)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Moses, G. (2021). The safety of commonly used vitamins and minerals. Aust Prescr, 44(4), 119-123. https://doi.org/10.18773/austprescr.2021.029