For some time now, food supplements have become fashionable, which is not surprising considering the demanding pace of life that often accompanies us. That is why just a couple of months ago, we were also talking about vitamin complexes, which are included, like supplements, within food supplements.
A topic that frequently confuses is the difference between food supplements, which is equivalent to nutritional, and food supplements. Well, this difference is subtle, and both terms are often used interchangeably. Why? Well, because even between each country, the meaning may vary according to current legislation.
However, in theory, the objective of consuming one or the other is different. To begin, we will discuss the definition of a food supplement since this includes, as I was saying, supplements.
A food supplement is a preparation, which is ingested orally, and which contains a food substance, a derivative, a plant, or an isolated nutrient, which allows us to make our diet more complete, reach the recommended daily amount of a nutrient, or which has a physiological effect. To recommend a supplement to a person, three situations must occur:
- If you have any nutritional deficit
- If you have any physiological situation that requires it
- If your baseline situation is correct and you do not present pathologies
What is it, and what function does a food supplement have?
Spanish legislation does not qualify, but if we stick to the dictionary, we will see that food supplements are preparations that may contain the same substances as the food supplement. What a tongue twister, right?
Their difference lies fundamentally in that supplementation aims to optimize or improve bodily function, therefore, a physiological process.
Therefore, while most food supplements (also called dietary supplements) are intended to make the diet more complete, the subgroup of supplements seeks a more specific effect. An example would be improving sports performance.
To achieve this, nutritional supplements generally contain higher amounts of nutrients or phytochemicals, that is, active plant ingredients, meaning greater caution must be taken with their consumption.
We must know that ingesting nutritional supplements frequently can cause side effects, especially if we suffer from a chronic pathology or are on medication. Therefore, if you dare to take any, it is better that you consult a professional specialized in supplementation, such as some pharmacists or nutritionists.
What is nutritional supplementation?
Through nutritional supplementation, some type of food supplement will be consumed during a certain period, usually more than a month, which allows us to obtain that physiological effect that the legislation tells us about.
To obtain this benefit, supplement consumption must be done consistently, normally daily, and trying to find the optimal moment. This may mean taking it away from food, alcohol, or at a specific time of day.
Before encouraging you to carry out a period of nutritional supplementation, you should assess various aspects regarding the supplement and your lifestyle:
- Objective of supplementation
- Supplementation risks
- If you smoke, drink, or have other toxic habits
- Your level of physical activity
- your stress level
- how do you rest
- how do you eat
- If you suffer from digestive disorders
- What drugs do you consume?
- What pathologies do you suffer from?
- Additives of that supplement
- Other food supplements that you consume
- Check what dose that supplement has
As you can see, to carry out a good supplementation, you must assess a large number of circumstances; even in some cases, it is convenient to take into account the weight of the person who wishes to supplement, to suitably adjust the dose, and make sure that it is enough amount to achieve your goals.
In any case, you should keep in mind that supplementation should never consist of trying to replace a balanced diet. This is a fundamental objective in the health of all of us, and it requires the practice of good daily habits.
Food supplements: Classification
Supplements can be classified according to the substances that contain them or the objective sought with their use. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to do it depending on the type of ingredients they contain, but, indeed, preparations used as supplements often combine different substances.
Among the most common components of supplements, we find:
- Vitamins and minerals: Iron, magnesium, group B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C…
- Amino acids (parts of proteins): From collagen, whey protein, glutamine, tryptophan, and branched-chain amino acids…
- Fatty acids, often essential, but not always: Omega 3, such as DHA, some omega 6, omega 7, omega 9…
- Carbohydrates: Maltodextrins, amylopectins, starches, …
- Soluble or insoluble fibers: Inulin, galactooligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, pectins…
- With probiotics: Lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, enterococci…
- Plants or derivatives, usually concentrated: Essences, liquid extracts, dry extracts…
Benefits of food supplements
Depending on the nutritional component it contains, or the components, food supplements will have some benefits or others. Below we have grouped them, taking into account the most demanded supplements and the objective sought with their consumption:
Supplements for athletes:
Usually, to increase muscle mass, this group includes protein supplements, carbohydrates, and more specific substances, such as creatine.
Supplements for the elderly:
They can be aimed at completing your diet or preventing the loss of muscle mass, which is why they usually include broad groups of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
Weight loss supplements:
Although the effectiveness of this type of supplement is very limited, it can help in some aspects related to weight loss, such as fluid retention. Among them are plants such as birch and horsetail.
Substances such as collagen or vitamin C have been shown to contribute to better joint health, which is why they are highly recommended.
Supplements for the immune system:
Our immune system requires many nutrients to work optimally: Vitamin D, C, iron, and selenium… We tell you much more in our “Nutrition and Covid-19” article.
Supplements against fatigue:
The feeling of lack of energy is very common due to our lifestyle. In this case, magnesium, iron, or B vitamins supplements can be useful.
Supplements to improve digestion:
Various plant active ingredients and enzymes have been shown to increase the speed at which digestion is carried out and reduce the feeling of bloating. Concentrated extracts such as fennel, or enzymes such as papain from papaya, are among the most widely used.
Derivatives of olimp vitamin multiple sport A or hyaluronic acid are the most common components in this type of supplement.
The benefits of supplements are even broader: plants to fall asleep, vitamins to improve concentration or stress, minerals to strengthen bones or your hair… but as I indicated, I have prepared the list according to the most demanded food supplements.