“Supplements are never a substitute for a balanced, healthful diet.”
Dr JoAnn Mason makes a good point, so why take them? As Brits, we’ve bought into the vitamin industry in a big way, with nearly 50% of the population taking at least one vitamin or mineral supplement each day. Supplements are useful for filling in gaps in your diet, to enhance the levels of nutrients in your body that you are not getting enough of naturally. For example, in the UK even if you get a balanced diet, you do not receive enough sunlight for your body to gain the recommended level of vitamin D, so many people have to increase their natural levels with a supplement.
How is a supplement categorised?
The term ‘food supplement’ is an umbrella term for any food that’s purpose is to supplement the normal diet; it is a concentrated source of nutrients that provide a nutritional or physiological effect. There is a wide range of ingredients that can be found in supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre and botanicals.
Although food supplements are used to correct nutritional deficiencies or to support certain physiological functions, they are NOT medicinal products. This means that their use is not intended to prevent or treat diseases or to change how the body works.
How do I know a supplement is legit?
As supplements are not classed as medical items, they are not held to the same standards or regulation. Dr Mason explains that in the USA as supplements are not regulated by the FDA it’s "difficult to know for certain that the supplement contains the ingredients on the label and is free of contaminants." In the UK this still applies; however, food supplements are required by law to be regulated as foods and are then therefore subjected to the provisions of general food law.
When buying a supplement, it’s important to read the ingredients list and ask yourself (well probably google, let’s be honest) ‘why has xx been included?’. Just because a supplement claims to be natural, doesn’t mean that it is necessarily safe. For example, herbs such as comfrey can damage your liver, even though it used to be a sort-after botanical for remedies. It’s also best to understand whether a product has fillers – ingredients used to bulk out and dilute the contents of a supplement and provide no benefits to the user.
Due to a lack of manufacturing and labelling regulation in general, supplements should only be bought from a reputable source, to reduce the risk of buying an ineffective or fake product. At Evnly we put all our brand partner’s products through a vigorous evaluation process. We check where the ingredients are sourced, extracted & manufactured, ensuring that best practises are followed at each stage. And we also check through third-party lab reports to ensure that the products have been suitably tested. Once we're convinced there are no "nasties" or fillers used, we can then consider adding them to our store. All of which means that customers can buy with complete confidence; safe in the knowledge that they are investing in only the best well-crafted supplements available.
I’ve seen that Ireland and Scotland are recommending Vitamin D to help with Covid symptoms, does it work?
Now, this is the nitty-gritty of this blog post: as we said above, the purpose of food supplements is to support your body’s physiological process. According to Sumantra Ray, of the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, “micronutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as a key contributor to the burden of malnutrition and poor health” so, therefore, one such physiological function that can be supported through supplements is your immune system.
In these Covid times, as well as wearing a mask and washing your hands, it’s vital to keep your immune system on top form. Since the start of the pandemic, headlines have talked about how supplements such as Vit C, Zinc and green tea can help you fight the virus, although the effects on Covid-19 aren't fully know known. Some evidence is starting to emerge however, and in recent months the research into the effect of other nutrients has been showing benefits.
In Spain, the findings from a study of 216 patients, suggest a link between low levels of vitamin D and serious cases of Covid-19. Among the participants, 82% were deficient in vitamin D, compared to 47% in the general population of non-Covid patients. Similarly BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health published a report which found that those who took Vit D supplements were less likely to have respiratory issues.
Further findings have been compiled from self-reported data from 445,850 people from the UK, USA & Sweden. Overall, they found evidence that for women taking multivitamins, omega-3, probiotics or vitamin D supplements may lessen the risk of testing positive for Covid 19, but taking vitamin C, zinc, or garlic supplements did nothing to reduce the risk.
Vitamin D is known to assist the immune system in fighting harmful bacteria and viruses and to reduce the risk of acute respiratory infection as well as increase calcium absorption which supports bone health. Encouraged by the evidence of vitamin D’s role in reducing Covid symptoms, Ireland has recommended that those attending Covid test centres will be provided with vitamin D supplements. In Scotland, they have looked at the evidence from Finland – a country where covid cases have been low, and vitamin D recommended levels have doubled in recent decades – and promoted a vitamin D campaign, offering free supplements, fortified milk and encouraging outdoor activity.
It’s too early to see the statistics in terms of how much vitamin D impacts Covid, but with all the research on vitamin D and immune support in general, it seems a sensible health step worth taking.
It’s all very well saying ‘just take it’ but are there any risks?
Much like any medicine, it’s impossible to tell how your body will react to a new supplement. Although many supplements are known to have minor side effects, we would highly recommend that people taking other medication we would suggest you speak to your doctor before taking a new supplement. This is because certain supplements can negatively interact with some medications; such as Ginkgo which has blood-thinning properties & St John’s Wort can increase the rate of breakdown of certain drugs, like anti-depressants & birth control, making them less effective.
Why do you care?
Here at Evnly, we want to level with you; we believe that health seriously needs a an alternative, so we think it's time alternative health got serious. We truly love CBD, plant-based remedies and supplements. They help us to stay healthy, sleep soundly, and keep us grounded and focused each day. We want everyone to understand the intricacies so you too can reach you health and wellness potential! Therefore, if you’ve found this blog useful, share it. If you want to see us write about a specific topic, please let us know.
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