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What are Supplements? Your Complete Guide

What are Supplements? Your Complete Guide

, by Hi-Health, 6 min reading time

What are supplements? Your Complete Guide

Have questions about supplements? You’re not alone. We understand, the selection of vitamins and nutrients in the marketplace can be overwhelming. And yet, supplements play a key role in maintaining and boosting your daily health and preventing disease. Here are answers to some basic supplement questions to help you set your vitamin and nutrient routine for 2016. The sales associates at your Hi-Health store can help you, too.

Click one of the questions below to read the answer.

What is a dietary supplement?

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 created the definition of supplements, cementing this unique class of foods. Dietary supplements must be ingested through the mouth—whether as a pill, tablet, capsule, softgel, chewy gummy, chewable tablet, melt-away, powder, drink, or bar. And the kinds of ingredients included can be wide ranging, indeed. Here’s a look at the main types of ingredients in supplement products, all of which are regulated by the law:

  • Vitamins: These are organic compounds the body needs for normal growth and metabolism. These are all the “letter” vitamins, such as vitamin A and D.
  • Minerals: Minerals are inorganic elements, such as calcium and magnesium, which the body requires for normal health. Your body can’t make these, so you need to get them through your diet.
  • Botanicals: These include ingredients from plant leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, or bark.
  • Amino Acids: Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. There are hundreds of amino acids on the planet, but only 20 in the human body. Eight of those amino acids cannot be manufactured by your body’s cells, making them essential to get through your diet.
  • Enzymes: Think of these as catalysts, like a key in a lock, that you need to unlock specific chemical reactions in the body, including digestive functions and cellular metabolism.
  • Organ Tissues & Glandulars: These support the body’s systems, such as metabolism and energy creation, that are governed by the endocrine system.
  • Metabolites, Constituents & Extracts: This is a catchall category for supplements synthesized or produced from whole ingredients. These include omega-3s, botanical extracts, and metabolites—something your body produces during normal metabolism but, in a supplement form, may help boost normal function. You see these ingredients a lot in sports nutrition supplements, such as creatine monohydrate, a metabolite of the organic acid creatine (prevalent in raw fish and meat) that’s used to supply energy to your body’s cells, especially muscles.

What is the suggested dose for certain vitamins?

Vitamins Optimum Dose
Vitamin A (retinol)* 2,500–5,000 IU
Vitamin A (from beta-carotene) 5,000–25,000 IU
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) 10–100 mg
Vitamin B2 (ribofavin) 10–50 mg
Vitamin B3 (niacin) 10–100 mg
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 25–100 mg
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 25–100 mg
Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) 400 mcg
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 250–1,000 mg
Vitamin D** 1,000–2,000 IU
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) 100–200 IU
Vitamin K1 or K2 60–300 mcg
Niacinamide 10–30 mg
Biotin 100–300 mcg
Folic acid 400 mcg
Choline 10–100 mg
Inositol 10–100 mg

*Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should not take more than 2,500 IU of retinol daily because of the possible risk of birth defects.
**Elderly people in nursing homes living in northern latitudes should supplement at the high range.

What is the suggested dose for certain minerals?

Minerals Optimum Dose
Boron 1–6 mg
Calcium 250–1,000 mg
Chromium 200–400 mcg
Copper 1–2 mg
Iodine 50–150 mcg
Iron*** 15–30 mg
Magnesium 250–500 mg
Manganese 3–5 mg
Molybdenum 10–25 mcg
Potassium ****
Selenium 100–200 mcg
Silica 1–25 mg
Vanadium 50–100 mcg
Zinc 15–30 mg

***Men, as well as post-menopausal women, rarely need supplemental iron.
****The FDA restricts the amount of potassium in supplements to 99 mg.

Potassium needs are best met through diet.

How long do supplements stay in my system?

Nutraceuticals (a food or supplement that contains health-giving additives) difer signifcantly in the amount of time the active ingredient(s) remains in your body. Water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C, generally will be metabolized and leave the body the same day of use or even within a few hours after consumption. Fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin A (palmitate form), can be stored in the liver for weeks and distributed to body tissues as needed.

Is it okay to take a supplement one day but not the next?

That depends, says Michael Holick, PhD, MD, author of The Vitamin D Solution (Penguin, 2010), For example, vitamin D is stored in fat cells so you don’t have to take it every day. Maintenance supplements, however, such as multivitamins, calcium, or ginseng, should be taken daily—as should any supplement taken for long-term therapeutic effects. “There are some supplements that may be used acutely for specific effects, and those don’t have to be taken on a daily basis,” says Gene Bruno, provost at Huntington College of Health Sciences. “For example, valerian taken for better sleep or L-theanine taken for stress relief, generally do not need to be taken daily.”

How much should I be getting?

We asked Michael Murray, ND, author of TheEncyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Atria, 2012) for recommended intake levels of important nutrients. Murray advises reading labels to fnd a multivitamin formula that contains vitamins and minerals in the optimum intake ranges listed to the left. “Be aware that you will not find a formula that provides all of these nutrients at these levels in one pill— it would simply be too big. You would need to take at least three to six tablets per day to meet all these levels,” Murray says. “While many one-a-day supplements provide good levels of vitamins, they tend to be insufcient in minerals. Your body needs the minerals just as much as it needs the vitamins—the two work hand-in-hand.”


Article from January/February 2016 Living Healthy Everyday Magazine. Download your copy here.


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