A thumbs down to supplements

Evidently, a square meal is no longer enough. With the health industry facing rapid commercialisation and modernisation, plenty of self-proclaimed nutrition experts in the City have taken to pill-popping – calcium tablets, vitamin capsules and other such supplements seem to have substituted the traditional glass of milk and the age-old prescription of leafy green vegetables.

While these supplements may seem like an easy route to keeping healthy to some, others remain wary of their artificial nature and poor quality. Metrolife attempts to find out why many term these pills as a poor substitute to a healthy meal.

One of the chief concerns regarding such supplements is that while they retain a high concentrate of a particular nutrient, they lack the trace nutrients which can be found in natural food. “Taking such supplements makes no sense. Whatever one says about them, the fact is they’re artificial – and I’d rather stick with something that has natural fibre and vitamins, because this is what the body is adapted to,” says Bindu, a professional.

She strongly condemns the practice of taking supplements or self-medication for no reason. “Such people don’t know what nutrients they might be missing out on. I strongly discourage my family from taking extra supplements, because one really doesn’t know what side effects they could cause,” she insists.

Most doctors too discourage their patients from skipping meals and turning to supplements as a substitute. Dr Huliraj, a physician, pegs the poor quality of locally manufactured supplements as one of the main reasons for this. “One can’t be sure if they’re actually packed with nutrients, or merely a gimmick. Anything could be in that capsule — there is no quality control to ensure that it’s real,” he warns.
He feels that patients should keep certain factors in mind before resorting to supplements.

“One needs to think about who’s prescribing it, and be very careful about reading the guidelines before taking them. At the end of the day, supplements should be taken only by people who need them. A healthy individual who follows a balanced diet has no need for them,” Huliraj explains.

Kavita Bajaj, a nutrition specialist, feels that it’s important for people to understand that supplements are meant to be taken in addition to meals, and not instead of them. “Taking only supplements would be wrong, as there are many other nutrients that the body needs,” she explains.

Although she admits that there are certain situations wherein supplements make sense – for example if one is contemplating skipping breakfast when they’re in a hurry – she also adds, “One can’t substitute food like this. It’s important to eat properly at the normal timings. Supplements are merely an add-on.”

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