Supplements for Health



People often look for alternative nutrition to perform at their best. Here are some tips and information about the more common over the counter supplements.

What is a Supplement

A supplement is something added to the diet, typically to make up for a nutritional deficiency. Ideally, it should be used as a substitute for eating well. Supplements include the following:

  • Vitamins
  • Amino Acids
  • Minerals
  • Herbs
  • Other Botanicals

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet should provide you with all of the individual nutrients you need. Not everyone has a good diet so some of those nutrients might be deficient. For example, a person who hates fruits and vegetables might not get enough vitamin C and someone who refuses to eat dairy products will frequently need extra calcium.

Taking a daily multivitamin is an inexpensive and easy way to be sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need. A few individual dietary supplements have been shown to have positive benefits for your health too. Adding these extra supplements may be beneficial:


Many people don’t eat enough calcium-containing foods. This can add to a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis, or weakened bones. The recommended amount of calcium for most adults is about 1200 mg per day.

Vitamin D

Some of the vitamin D you need comes from the food you eat, but most of it is made by your body after exposure to sun. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the two nutrients are often combined into one supplement. An average adult needs about 400 IU of vitamin D.

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids will help prevent cardiovascular disease. Fatty fish is the best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, though plants such as flax contain omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fish oil per day is an effective amount.

Folic Acid

Folate is a B vitamin and folic acid is the supplemental form of folate. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and legumes. Folic acid supplementation is recommended for any woman who may become pregnant and may also help reduce homocysteine levels, which might help reduce the risk of heart disease. The recommended amount for adults is 400 mcg per day.

Chondroitin and Glucosamine

Researchers from the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial found that participants with moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis pain found statistically significant amounts of pain relief with 1500 mg glucosamine combined with 1200 mg chondroitin sulfate supplements.

Antioxidants and Zinc

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study results showed that a combination of antioxidants and zinc taken as a dietary supplement reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration. The formula used in the study was:

  • 500 mg of vitamin C
  • 400 IU of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of beta-carotene
  • 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide
  • 2 mg of copper as cupric oxide


Foods like yogurt and fermented foods naturally contain bacteria called probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the friendly bacteria normally found in your digestive system. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements and may be beneficial for people with irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.

Dietary Supplement Safety

In general, dietary supplements are safe. However keep these points in mind when you take them:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Multivitamins and other dietary supplements will not replace an unhealthy diet. Focus on eating sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • Don’t overdose your supplements. Some vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin B6 can be bad for your health when taken in extremely large amounts for extended periods of time. Follow the dosage instruction on the label.
  • Tell your doctor. Some dietary supplements can interact with medications, so tell your doctor about the dietary supplements you take.
  • Understand the label. Dietary supplement labels can make claims about how the dietary supplement may affect the structure or the function of the body, but not claims to treat or cure a disease.


Harvard School of Public Health. “Vitamins.” 2007.

Huang HY, Caballero B, Chang S, Alberg A, Semba R, Schneyer C, Wilson RF, Cheng TY, Prokopowicz G, Barnes GJ 2nd, Vassy J, Bass EB. “Multivitamin/Mineral supplements and prevention of chronic disease.” Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2006 May;(139):1-117.

Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” National Institutes of Health. Updated September 2005.

American Heart Association. “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” 2007.

Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate.” National Institutes of Health. Updated August 2005.

National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. “Questions and Answers: NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT).” National Institutes of Health. Updated April 2007.

National Eye Institute. “Age-Related Eye Disease Study–Results.” National Institutes of Health. Updated May 2007.

National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. “An introduction to probiotics.” National Institutes of Health. Updated January 2007.

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  1. September 30, 2009 at 6:00 am
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