What is a Dietary Supplement?

Dietary supplements.
Taking vitamin B complex pills may help improve sleep quality.
A doctor should be consulted before taking any new supplements.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
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Dietary supplements are any type of compounds that are consumed in addition to food as a means of ensuring that the daily minimum requirements for various vitamins and minerals are ingested each day. In the best situations, a dietary, or nutritional supplement is not seen as a substitute for eating a balanced diet. Rather, the supplement is viewed as a means to augment the nutrients consumed during meals and not a license to load the daily diet with all sorts of empty calories.

There are many different ways to implement a dietary supplement program. The most common strategy adopted by people is to make use of a multi-vitamin product. In general, multi-vitamins provide a full day’s worth of essential nutrients, and normally additional amounts of each vitamin included in the formula. A dietary supplement of this type can easily be purchased at most supermarkets as well as many pharmacies and chemist shops.


Other people make use of a dietary supplement in order to deal with a temporary health issue. For example, people dealing with the effects of stress are often counseled by doctors to include larger amounts of various vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. When the stress is manifested as anxiety, mild depression, or an inability to sleep well, a physician may recommend a regimen of Vitamin C and a complete round of B vitamins. To support the vitamins, the doctor may also recommend the inclusion of such mineral supplements as calcium and magnesium in a balance of two parts calcium to one part magnesium. As the ailment subsides, the dosage of the supplements may be lowered back to maintenance levels.

Another type of dietary supplement that is preferred by many people is fresh herbs. This option is particularly attractive to people who wish to stay away from vitamin products that may contain artificial binders and other ingredients. Herbs are often a great way to add nutrients to the diet without the presence of additives. The herbs can also sometimes can be used to season food as well as brewed into healthy teas. Most herbs contain a number of different types of nutrients in varying quantities, so it is often helpful to consult an herbalist in order to identify the best herbal options for adding vitamins and minerals to the daily diet.

While most vitamins and minerals contained in a dietary supplement are perfectly safe within a given dosage range, it is important to note that consuming larger amounts may actually be harmful to the body. In some cases, the high dosages of one vitamin or mineral may interfere with the body’s ability to properly absorb another nutrient. There are also many vitamins and herbs that are beneficial in reasonable doses but can become toxic when larger quantities are consumed. For this reason, it is normally a good idea to consult a medical professional before attempting to use a dietary supplement as a way to deal with any health ailment.


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