There has been a lot of negative press recently about the use of nutritional supplements, saying they are a complete waste of money and that we can get everything we need from a well-balanced diet. In an ideal world yes, this would be the case. However, the vast majority of diets in the UK are made up from highly processed foods, with most people failing to eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. The National Nutrition and Diet Survey 2013 found that only 31% of adults, 11% of boys and only 8% of girls met the “5 a day” recommendation. Most people also failed to get the recommended amounts of heart healthy Omega-3 fats into their diet, from sources such as oily fish. The survey found that the recommendation of one portion of oily fish per week was well below this for all age groups.
It has also been argued that some of the methodology used for the research into the benefits of nutritional supplementation has been flawed, according to a recent analysis published in the journal Nutrients. It found that studies attempted to examine naturally available nutrients in the same way as prescription drugs, leading to conclusions that offer little accuracy or scientific meaning. There we also studies involving subjects that had relatively ‘good’ diets, such as doctors and nurses, which rendered the results somewhat unreliable.
As well as the food choices we make, factors such as declining soil quality is also having a major impact on the nutritional status of our food. There may also be situations where individuals have elevated needs for vitamins and minerals, making it difficult to obtain through dietary sources alone. Smokers, the elderly, people who are obese, ill or injured are some examples. Those who are experiencing prolonged stress may also require additional nutritional support. True, it is better to get all the nutrients we need from our diets, but this may not always be possible. I always recommend people make the appropriate dietary adjustments first and foremost, yet if we are faced with the problem of getting all the goodness we need from our food supply then supplementation can be a useful and viable option.