Know the Pros and Cons of New Supplements for Better Health

By Justin Bennett

It takes more than just one good habit to stay healthy. We need balanced nutrition, exercise, and ways to keep mentally fit. But what about nutritional supplements, especially newer ones that are just being developed? The variety of supplements available these days is greater than ever. So how do you know which ones to choose, and which ones truly add to your overall health?

Supplements: The Ever-Expanding Category

The vitamins and minerals that we take as nutritional supplements have been around for a while, but there has been an explosion in the supplement industry in recent years. According to The Atlantic, supplements now include not only vitamins and minerals, but also formulas "derived from herbs, glands, amino acids, and enzymes of all sorts."

In many ways, this variety is great news for our health. Vitamins are used to supplement your diet so that you get the full range of nutrients you need. In addition to supplementing diets, these newer formulas expand that category to support our overall health in ways that vitamins canít.

One example is the use of probiotic supplements. Anyone who suffers from gut health problems should give probiotics a try because they have been scientifically proven to help ease these symptoms. Your microbiome, which basically means the microorganisms that live in your GI tract, needs to be healthy and balanced for proper digestion. Probiotics add to the good bacteria in your microbiome, aiding digestion and relieving discomfort from bloating, gas, and constipation. The benefits of a healthy microbiome arenít limited to these digestive problems, either. A recent scientific study found that a healthy microbiome also plays a role in regulating metabolism.

How Do You Know What Youíre Getting?

The health benefits of newer supplements can be life-changing, but with such an ever-expanding market, you want to make sure what youíre taking is safe and delivers the results youíre expecting. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets safety standards for dietary supplements, but supplements fall under a different category from food and drugs. Furthermore, supplements do not have to be approved by the FDA before being sold.

Because of this fact, you want to choose products that are made according to the standards set by the FDA. The best way to be sure those standards are being met is to look for products that have been approved by a reputable independent agency. According to The New York Times, these agencies test supplements for standards that include potency and accuracy of ingredients advertised, among others. Many supplements that have undergone independent testing will have a seal on the label, such as United States Pharmacopeia (USP Verified) or NSF International.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Taking Supplements?

The purpose of using supplements is to boost your health, but there can be drawbacks and even health risks to taking the wrong ones for your bodyís needs. Even though supplements arenít regulated as drugs, supplements can interact with some medications. And certain populations, such as pregnant or nursing women, should be especially cautious about using supplements. This is why itís always best to consult your doctor to be sure that any supplements youíre considering are safe for your specific situation.

There may be times in your life when a certain vitamin or other supplement is ideal for optimal health, but you always want to do your research first. For example, women are prone to bone loss later in life, and calcium supplements can help reduce this risk. However, excess calcium can also cause health problems, which means that calcium supplements arenít right for everyone. You also want to watch out for additives that may be safe but are less than desirable. Children are especially prone to effects from artificial dyes and sweeteners, so you want to check labels for these extra ingredients.

With so many options, itís important to weigh these pros and cons, and know all the facts, before taking a new supplement. New supplements have powerful benefits, but not all supplements are created equal. This is why itís important to know the differences and choose products wisely.