Caution advised on supplement intake

Unmonitored consumption of health and fitness supplements is dangerous, say medical experts

Gyms tell their clients to take supplements, but any overdose can have serious consequences, doctors warn.

In a recent report from an online supplement store, Bengaluru stood second in the purchase of health and fitness supplements in the country. Medical practitioners in the country vouch that this dangerous trend has increased over the years. 

Fitness experts and gym instructors liberally suggest protein shakes, pills and supplements to fitness enthusiasts but it is an unhealthy fad, say doctors in the city. 

Karthikeyan JC, a fitness instructor in HRBR Layout, says that most gyms suggest additional fitness solutions to a workout regime. “Often youngsters come asking for quick ways to get a beefed-up look. We help them select the ideal solutions according to their persona and warn them about the harm of an overdose of supplements,” he adds. 

Boosting up one’s immunity and general health is mostly the reason supplements are prescribed by doctors, says Dr Shirley Ganesh, chief dietician with Columbia Asia Hospital. 

“The food habits of people do not provide the required intake of nutrients. Taking supplements in case of a deficiency of Vitamins or other nutrients is common but it is prescribed for a specific period. But actors, models, and fitness freaks often taken muscle mass enhancers, protein drinks or pills to build their bodies in appearance and to be accepted by their peers,” details Shirley. 

She adds, “Supplements are suggested only to people who are suffering from extreme malnutrition, or individuals with conditions like gestational diabetes or suffering from osteoarthritis.”

Unmonitored intake of health supplements can lead to many ailments in the long run, she adds. “Overloading one’s body with proteins is not required. One can even develop rashes or a drug allergy that can be caused by the other components in a supplement. One could end up gaining a lot more weight than required, resulting in other health issues. Steroid content in these pills could harm one in a big way, making them gain or lose weight,” she says. 

There are even cases of eyesight being affected by intake of supplements, notes Dr Shirley. “Some people can even experience a migraine attack or headaches because of these.”

These supplements harm the functioning of the kidney in the long run, points out Dr Manjunath S, consultant nephrologist, BR Life SSNMC Hospital. 

“Recently, more young patients in the age group of 20 to 35 years have been observed taking these supplements and anabolic steroids, which lead to kidney ailments. Protein intake is usually 1gm/ 1kg of body mass. When this intake increases, excess protein converts into nitrogenous waste, which leads to overworking of the kidney,” he says. 

Around 5 to 8 percent of the city’s young population is affected with kidney ailments and this can be routed to supplements. “Earlier this was only observed among the urban class but now it is becoming a fad among the rural class too.”

Dr Vidyashankar P, lead consultant – nephrology, Aster CMI Hospital, agrees that more than 5 percent of unexplained kidney ailments are due to consuming health supplements. 

He points out that many herbal supplements in the market could do more harm than help. “In the West and other countries, many who have been taking health supplements have experienced fibrosis (hardening of tissue), which is irreversible. There is no clear data about these supplements and many shop for them online which cannot be monitored,” he says.

 

The best way to get nutrients

“The safest way is to replace nutrients through natural food intake. Even for a vegetarian where he or she might be missing out on certain nutrients, the dietary pattern has to change accordingly with supplements. It always has to be a combination of both.” 
- Dr Shirley Ganesh, dietician

 

Supplements should be monitored

“The ingredients of fitness supplements are not clear and should be monitored by the government or a monitory health body. The increased consumption of these is a dangerous fad. Supplements should only be taken after consulting a doctor.”
- Dr Vidyashankar P, Lead consultant – Nephrology, Aster CMI Hospital
 

Replace supplements naturally

Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, chief clinical dietician of Apollo Hospitals points out that a balanced diet constitutes 60 % carbohydrates, 20 % proteins and 20 % fat rich food.
“Inculcating these correctly can help avoid supplements. When having idli for breakfast, consume a bowl of sambhar and skip the coconut chutney. For lunch or dinner, have a bowl of dal or paneer dishes (which are not greasy) and a bowl of curd. Snacks in the evening could be kosambari, roasted chana etc. Reduce intake of carb-rich foods after 6 pm and include nuts or curd dressing to one’s salad,” she adds. 

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Caution advised on supplement intake

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