Benefits and harms of biologically active additives
It is customary to swallow biologically active supplements «just in case»: suddenly something is missing — an extra vitamin will not hurt. However, a lot of recent research proves: these drugs can prevent and even treat diseases, and the norms of dietary intake of various vitamins and minerals should be higher than traditional recommendations.
So do I need to take various supplements if I feel completely healthy? What kind of help can you count on in case of illness or chronic disorder? We will try to give scientifically based answers to these questions. Using strictly verified data, we will demonstrate the positive effects of a variety of additives, discussed in detail on the pages of the site infovitamin.ru.
Who needs dietary supplements
Many people believe that if you eat well and feel normal, dietary supplements are an extra waste of money: it is enough to follow the recommendations of nutritionists (see the box Official recommendations: what do the numbers say?).
However, even if we consider the official norms of consumption of vitamins and minerals to be quite sufficient for health, an important point should be taken into account: a significant part of the population of developed countries in their daily menu does not reach these figures.
Most of us do not eat enough vegetables and fruits — less than five servings a day, necessary to maintain good shape and prevent diseases. Modern people tend to choose food that is not the best in terms of nutritional value: fried potatoes instead of broccoli, ice cream or cake instead of apple, sweet soda instead of mineral water.
This not only gives us extra calories and harmful fats, but is also fraught with a shortage of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant phytochemicals in the body.
What are we missing
According to recent surveys, our menu often sins with a lack of a number of important components for health. For example, 20% of men, 30% of women and 50% of teenagers have too little calcium in it, more than 20% of adults have magnesium, and 25% of women have folic acid.
Even competently composing a diet, it is difficult to achieve adequate dietary iron intake, especially by adolescents and women, not to mention vegetarians.
Vitamin E is significantly lacking in 30% of adults, primarily those who voluntarily or involuntarily limit themselves to vegetable fats. In addition, a scientifically balanced diet may generally lack some «unconventional», but important for health substances such as fish oil, soy isoflavones, probiotics. The way out is obvious: if it is not possible to ensure optimal daily intake of all this in the composition of food, it is necessary to take appropriate medications.
Even if you eat strictly according to science, taking dietary supplements is necessary for reasons that can be conditionally called environmental. Some scientists believe that environmental pollutants common in our lives, such as exhaust gases and all kinds of «chemistry», lead to serious violations at the cellular level, weakening, in particular, the immune system. Many supplements, primarily antioxidants, protect the body from «bad ecology».It is known that alcohol, tobacco, prolonged stress and taking certain medications make it difficult to assimilate a number of nutrients. The most complete menu is not able to compensate for the accumulated deficit. Therefore, additional measures such as a special diet and supplementation are needed to eliminate and prevent it.
Prevention of diseases
Previously, the deficiency of certain substances was associated only with specific diseases, for example, scurvy (C-beriberi), beriberi (B1-beriberi), pellagra (lack of niacin). However, over the past 30 years, many studies have demonstrated the important role of certain food components in preventing chronic degenerative pathologies that have become a real scourge of Western countries, especially due to the steady aging of their population. Scientists have also proved that the daily doses of vitamins and minerals necessary for the prevention of these ailments are often much higher than the officially recommended norms (see box Official recommendations: what do the numbers say?).
According to many experts, some substances, primarily antioxidants, which prevent and/or inhibit the development of diseases, can slow down the cellular aging processes. Of course, a cocktail of vitamin E, carotenoids and selenium is not an elixir of youth. Nevertheless, studies show that well-composed combinations of vitamins (the same E) and minerals really strengthen the immune system of older people.
According to a study of 11,178 elderly people conducted by the US Institute of Gerontology, taking vitamin E significantly reduces their risk of «expected» death, primarily from cardiovascular disorders. In addition, it has been proven that a menu enriched with antioxidants inhibits the development of cataracts and macular degeneration — typical age-related pathologies leading to progressive deterioration of vision. Antioxidants that protect against problems associated with aging include, among others, selenium, carotenoids, flavonoids and some amino acids.
Certain plant substances, such as those present in echinacea, strengthen the immune system. Phytoestrogens, in particular soy isoflavones, weaken and even eliminate unpleasant symptoms of menopause, at the same time helping to prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases (for more information about age-related problems, see «Health protection»).
Even doctors who are very skeptical about various supplements prescribe iron for certain types of anemia, vitamin A for severe acne, B vitamins to relieve some nervous disorders. Doctors do not hesitate to advise taking fish oil to all those suffering from hypercholesterolemia, i. e. elevated cholesterol in the blood, fraught with atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction.
On the website infovitamin.ru we recommend quite specific vitamins and dietary supplements for certain diseases. However, the use of these substances as medicines is a very controversial issue, especially in severe cases. Apologists of classical medicine tend to doubt their effectiveness and emphasize that it is simply dangerous to stop exclusively on alternative remedies. At the same time, many practitioners have already become seriously interested in non-traditional methods of treatment, primarily dietetics and phytotherapy. Based on clinical observations and publications, they believe that these approaches are very effective and safe for prescribing to patients.
While experts are arguing, we offer a reasonable compromise: without giving up classic medicines, supplement them with vitamins and supplements — naturally, after consulting with a doctor.
For thousands of years, people have known medicinal plants and used them for various ailments and even serious illnesses. Modern research confirms the effectiveness of many such «herbs». Their pharmacological properties described on the website infovitamin.ru, proven by both clinical trials and age-old folk practice. The benefits of some plants, in particular St. John's wort, kava, hairy dioscorea and spiny needle, have already been recognized by doctors, and they are quite officially prescribed for various complaints, including depression, stress, menstrual pain and varicose veins. Nevertheless, despite the known therapeutic effects of many herbs, they should be used for therapeutic purposes, as well as other means, with caution (for more information, see «Medicinal herbs»).
|Features of the market of biologically active additives in Russia|
|In countries where it is understood that human health is his personal responsibility, the consumption of supplements is up to 90% (Japan), in the USA — up to 80%, in Europe the situation in different countries is different, but on average about 50% of the population regularly uses various supplements. In Russia, there are only about 10% of such people.
The situation is changing as the number of new registered supplements is constantly increasing. At the same time, about 60% of their growth is due to domestic ones. But this does not mean a booming market, and even more so an increase in the consumption of additives.
In Russia, since 2003, sanitary and epidemiological rules and regulations have been put into effect, according to which various additives can be purchased only in pharmacies, diet stores, as well as in special departments, sections or kiosks of grocery stores.
What biologically active additives cannot do
Additives are certainly useful, but one must be aware of the limits of their capabilities and even the dubiousness of some properties sometimes attributed to these products.
• On the one hand, as their very name «additives» implies, they do not replace food, but only complement it. On the other hand, they cannot protect against excess in the menu, say, excess calories, salt or saturated fats. It is also known that the effectiveness of some substances is much higher if they enter the body as part of food, and not additives.
• Supplements are not able to completely neutralize the disadvantages of an unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking and physical inactivity. To keep in good shape, you need to take full care of yourself, especially in old age.
• Most sold biologically active additives are at least harmless, but some should be treated with caution. We are talking, first of all, about a variety of means for weight loss. Remember: no product (no medicine, no vitamin, no plant extract) will help someone who eats incorrectly and/or neglects physical activity lose weight.
• You should also not expect much from supplements recommended to improve physical or intellectual performance. Some of these drugs in experiments do somewhat increase the efficiency of sick people or strengthen the memory of «sclerotics». However, a healthy person in normal living conditions is unlikely to feel such effects. Similarly, supplements advertised as remedies for fatigue will not turn you into a marathon runner, and so-called aphrodisiacs are unlikely to help with impotence.
• No dietary supplements treat serious diseases — cancer, atherosclerosis, AIDS, although some are able to alleviate chronic pathology and/ or symptoms — inflammation and pain. Just do not take them in such situations on your own initiative, without the knowledge of the doctor.
• In any case, remember: helping to maintain health, dietary supplements do not replace officially prescribed medications. Whatever the well-wishers advise you, do not switch to alternative treatment without a doctor's permission, even if the classical one does not give the desired effect.