Recent research has demonstrated that diet alone may not be sufficient to supply the nutrients necessary for overall good health. While most experts agree that nutritional supplements are vital for a variety of illnesses, injuries, and age-related problems, vitamin and mineral supplements can also help to maintain optimal physical and psychological health, and promote longevity and chronic disease prevention.
Ever since the term vitamin was coined almost 100 years ago to describe the discovery of the essential life substances in foods, scientists have debated the issue of nutritional adequacy. Medical science has long held that healthy adults do not need supplementation if they consume a healthful, varied diet. Until recently, it was widely believed that supplements were only considered necessary if a person had an outright or “severe” nutrient deficiency, usually manifested by overt illness.
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Nutrition has become an important segment in the natural and holistic healthcare practices. Due to current FDA labeling regulations for nutritional supplements and herbs, health food stores and/or pharmacies are not allowed to present information regarding dosage or treatment of health conditions, regardless of scientific support.
In addition to disease control, nutritional supplements can help people cope with specific lifestyle, environmental, and emotional/psychological factors. Today, an estimated 80% of adult Americans take nutritional supplements, many on a daily basis. It is no longer just a fad, but part of a growing trend as people start to take a proactive approach to their own health. Although researchers are learning more every day about the connection between nutrition and health, there is still no definitive scientific “how-to guide” for this very complex issue, especially since each individual’s needs are different.
While it is always recommended that a person try to obtain as many nutrients as possible through the consumption of a variety of nutrient-dense foods, this can be unrealistic for many, due to the following reasons: reduced calorie intake; the dislike of certain foods; loss of nutrients in cooking; the variable quality of food supply; lack of knowledge, motivation, or time to plan and prepare balanced meals; and nutrient depletion caused by stress, lifestyle, and certain medications. This is where nutritional supplements can play an important role in filling any nutrient gaps.