Nutritional supplements refers to a wide range of products that are designed to enhance your health, improve athletic performance, or otherwise affect your physical or mental well being. These can include vitamins, sports supplements, weight loss products, teas, herbs, and antioxidants. Nutritional supplements can be found in almost all health food stores and many traditional stores as well.
Throughout history, nutritional supplements have been used to treat a wide range of ailments and to improve health. Many traditional medicines come from what may be considered supplements. Perhaps one of the most common forms of nutritional supplement is the vitamin. Many people take multivitamins, and doctors often recommend such use. Some vitamins can be risky if taken in excess, however, so an awareness of the safety of such vitamins is essential. An excess of Vitamin A, for example, can lead to liver damage and other unpleasant side effects. Consult with a doctor before taking anything vitamin supplements.
Other popular supplements are used in sports, where they are used to enhance performance and speed recovery. Many supplements used for these purposes cause debate as to effectiveness, and some have been pulled from the shelves. Ephedrine is one recent example. Used in many weight loss products, ephedrine caused serious heart problems for some users and is now a regulated substance. Creatine is another supplement of possible unknown side effects. Some people claim that it causes liver damage, while others say that it is safe when used appropriately.
One of the most important things to know about nutritional supplements is that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is why many product claims on packaging labels and advertising materials include the message, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration" or something similar. Because supplements are not regulated, the manufacturing, processing, and packaging methods can vary a great deal from one product to another. When using supplements, be sure to research the company and choose a reputable supplier. The safety of supplements may also be unknown due to the lack of regulation. Again, careful shopping is necessary.
Many producers and users of supplements claim that they are safe because they are natural or made from "all natural" ingredients. While this may seem like a logical claim, consumers must use their best judgment when considering the use of supplements. Many substances found in nature are not safe, and are in fact toxic, poisonous, and even deadly. After all, poison ivy is "all natural," but you likely won't want to rub it all over your skin, even if a great sales pitch tried to convince you that it's the best moisturizer around.
Some nutritional supplements can be useful and aid your health. Just as with any consumable, careful shopping and research is essential to your good health. If a claim seems too good to be true, it likely is. Be aware of product pitches and use good judgment before purchasing and using any nutritional supplements. Buy supplements from a reputable company and manufacturer, and when in doubt, consult a physician before beginning a supplement routine.