When you go into any supermarket or big box store, you’ll find an entire section, generally ranging from several shelves to several aisles, dedicated to supplements. In fact, there are entire independent stores and chains of stores dedicated to this one product. The nutritional supplement industry is huge and only growing. According to Grand View Research:
The global dietary supplements market size was valued at USD 151.9 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% from 2022 to 2030.
With all of this focus on supplements, there are several factors to consider when using supplements for you and your family.
What are Supplements?
Supplements are nutrients and building blocks used by the body to enhance nutrition and support nutritional deficits. The most common of supplements include:
- Proteins and amino acids
- Fatty Acids
- Probiotics, prebiotics, and fiber
- Botanical compounds
Supplements can contain one or more of these components. People generally look for formulations to support a particular concern they have with their health. In a 2019 survey conducted by the American Osteopathic Association, the top three sources of information on taking supplements was attributed to:
- 51% Recommendations from a physician
- 39% based on their own research and personal needs
- 22% from a friend or family member
- 13% based on intrigue while in the store
- 13% from a trainer or nutritionist
- 6% endorsements of celebrities or social media influencers
The study found that 86% of American adults take supplements, however only 24% were tested and indicated a nutritional deficiency.
Who is Using Supplements?
With the above influences on supplements, it makes sense that such a large section of the population turns to supplements to fill gaps in dietary nutrition. The perception that this is an easy, quick, and convenient way to fill those needs for ourselves and our loved ones drives the market.
Pregnant Women and Women of Childbearing Age:
In the 1970’s prenatal vitamins were introduced for women. During the 1980’s the correlation of folic acid and certain congenital concerns increased the usage of women whether they were pregnant, considering becoming pregnant, or were concerned they might become pregnant. These supplements, like anything momma consumes, will affect mother and baby.
Many adults faced with aches, pains, and general concerns of aging have turned to supplements. Ranging from concerns of joint pain, bone density, memory loss, and general aging, many in this category seek answers and help from supplements whether they are on prescription drugs for the concern or not.
Athletes and Fitness-focused Individuals
A large portion of the population has turned to protein powders, amino acids, and other muscle support and recovery supplements. With the fitness industry ever-growing, and a culture focused on body image, the supplement industry fills in with a variety of products targeted to workout enthusiasts. Unfortunately, many are filled with additional fillers and sugars.
Most parents are aware their children don’t consume a daily, well-rounded diet of nutrition needed for their growing and developing bodies. The supplement industry has filled this gap with the introduction of children’s vitamins in bright, candy-like, cartoon shapes as far back as the 1960’s.
Not All Supplements Are Created Equal. Quality over Quantity
With a huge demand for supplements across numerous pockets of the population, the market of manufacturers and suppliers continues to grow. Due to the growth of the market, sometimes shortcuts are taken. Nutritional supplements have an impact on the body. That is, after all, why people take them. Because of this, it is very important to know what is in your supplements as well as what isn’t. Dosage, contraindications, purity, and best timing to take supplements are all important factors to consider when using supplements.
Supplements are not regulated in the same way as other health products are. The standard held for these products isn’t “safe and effective,” it’s simply, “not harmful.” The concern comes, then, when these products are poorly manufactured, are taken in the wrong dosage or alongside other products they may interact with, or whether they are actually doing more harm to the body than good because the body doesn’t need the particular supplement being taken.
Sourcing of supplements is a huge factor in quality. Are they chemically produced in a lab, or from plants and other natural sources? Are those sources clean and pure, or are they conventionally farmed and possibly contaminated with numerous chemicals, all of which may be concentrated in a small tablet or capsule? We’ve all seen the huge bottles on the shelves of big box stores that look like a deal when compared to quality, bio-available, sources the body will easily use. Would you rather be paying for what your body is using, or what you are simply consuming only to flush out? Fillers and binders, or wholesome, nutrition?
Some vitamins and nutrients are water soluble and others fat soluble. It’s important to know the difference so that you aren’t taking in too much of a potentially good thing, only to make it harmful.
We Don’t Guess, We Test!
There are so many influences and consumers in the supplement world, it’s easy to get confused, overwhelmed, and over supplemented! The first step is to slow down and consider what your body really needs. Many people take supplements because of one of the influences above without considering their unique needs, only to realize their health concern hasn’t been resolved.
A December 2021 publication indicated that 24% of supplement users use energy-boosting products. In the 74+ age category, 76% use supplements for brain health. The first questions we should be asking is why does someone need energy boosting? Why the fatigue? What is the best way to support the body? Is there a dysfunction somewhere in the body that is prohibiting the body from accessing the energy the body creates? What about brain health? There are many reasons for brain fog and confusion that can be addressed and supported, but the supplements recommended will depend on what that dysfunction in the unique body is.
What types of support does your body need to function properly for the stage of life you are in? There is really only one way to know. Test. At The Wellness Way, we look at the overall function of the body, where it may need support, and the best way to do that for your unique needs. Before jumping on the supplement bandwagon, know where you are going and why as well as the products you are trusting to get you to those goals.
At The Wellness Way, we source the supplements we recommend to our patients from the purest sources and companies with integrity. After all, we do health differently!