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Everything You Need To Know About Supplements In Canada
Supplements include a wide variety of non-medication products intended to complement a person’s diet and enhance their health. They typically contain vitamins, minerals, and herbs that aren’t consumed sufficiently as part of your normal food intake. Supplements in Canada come in many forms, including but not limited to pills, liquids, and capsules.
Supplements can benefit your health greatly, but you also must regulate their consumption and use them as intended to prevent adverse effects. Read on to learn more about supplements, why people take them, and which ones are right for you.
What Are Supplements?
Supplements are products typically taken alongside meals to provide nutrients that aren’t included or insufficiently found in your food intake. While they’re a great source of nutrients, supplements cannot replace a healthy diet, and that’s why you should still maintain a balanced food intake while consuming supplements.
You should also consume supplements in recommended amounts. Supplements may not cause a health problem outright, but some may have harmful effects when consumed by people with certain medical conditions or in unsafe amounts. Always check the recommended dosage before starting supplementation.
What Is The Purpose Of Supplements?
The purpose of supplements is to improve your health and prevent adverse health conditions. Generally, a certain supplement can address a specific health problem.
Here are some examples of how dietary supplements claim to improve your health:
- Vitamin D and calcium supplements may prevent osteoporosis and keep bones strong.
- Omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish oils improve heart health and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Folic acid can reduce congenital disabilities when consumed by pregnant women.
- Zinc improves skin health and typically slows down vision loss from age-related degeneration.
- Vitamin B12 can improve nerve and blood cell health and may prevent anemia.
- Amino acids can help you get better sleep and improve athletic performance.
Common Types Of Supplements
Supplements come in many forms and ways to consume them. Different supplements also perform different functions to enhance your health, so it’s essential to identify which benefits you the most. Here are four of the most common types of supplements:
Vitamins are naturally-occurring substances that we need in small amounts to function properly.
There are 13 types of vitamins recognized by scientists. Here’s a quick look at what they are and what they do to improve your health:
- Vitamin A: Improves eye health
- Vitamin B1: Produces enzymes that break down blood sugar to prevent diabetes
- Vitamin B2: Develops body cells and helps metabolism
- Vitamin B3: Helps body cells grow and work properly
- Vitamin B5: Produces energy and hormones
- Vitamin B6: Helps form red blood cells
- Vitamin B7: Lets the body metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Vitamin B9: Makes DNA and RNA
- Vitamin B12: Improves nervous system health
- Vitamin C: Supports the immune system and promotes wound healing
- Vitamin D: Strengthens bones
- Vitamin E: Prevents inflammation and protects from free radical damage
- Vitamin K: Reduces susceptibility to bleeding
Most vitamins come from food, but sometimes we need more vitamins than what our food intake can provide – this is where vitamin supplements come in. These supplements complete our diet by providing the vitamins that food can’t provide, ensuring we have all the necessary vitamins to function properly.
Like vitamins, we only need a small amount of minerals to function properly. Here’s a look at five essential minerals we need in everyday life:
- Iron: Carries oxygen throughout our bodies
- Calcium: Builds strong bones and decreases the risk of osteoporosis
- Magnesium: Supports energy production
- Zinc: Boosts cognition and memory
- Potassium: Regulates blood pressure
While we can get enough minerals from eating a balanced diet, some people, like pregnant women and the elderly, may need supplements to correct mineral deficiencies.
Herbal supplements or botanicals are food supplement products containing herbs. They’re popular because herbs are “natural”, and many people think everything natural is safe.
But while herbal supplements may be beneficial, they typically don’t undergo rigorous testing like drug-based supplement products. Therefore, you should consult reliable sources and contact your physician for advice before taking herbal supplements.
Protein powders are typically blended into smoothies or shakes and intended as sports supplements. They’re popular with athletes and bodybuilders, helping them bulk up and build body strength.
There are three common types of protein powders typically used as sports nutrition and pre-workout supplementation:
- Whey protein powder: A milk-based protein that usually promotes fat loss and muscle growth. There’s also an alternative supplement called whey isolate if you’re lactose intolerant.
- Casein protein powder: A dairy-based slow-digesting protein that’s generally used to grow muscles during calorie restriction.
- Pea protein powder: A yellow split pea-based protein that vegetarian and vegan athletes consume.
When choosing a sports nutrition or pre-workout supplement, you should check its sugar and calorie content. Some powders have little extra sugar, but others have a lot of extra sugar that may result in blood sugar spikes and unhealthy weight gain.
Why Do People Take Supplements?
Generally, people take supplement products to complement their food intake and improve their health. Here’s a closer look at the reasons why people start a supplementation program:
Fill Nutrient Gaps
In theory, a healthy and balanced diet should give you enough nutrients to power your body properly. However, not everyone can eat a balanced diet reliably due to reasons like:
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Alcohol or drug issues
- Very strict diets
- Advanced age
- Vegetarianism and veganism
- Food allergies
- Malabsorption issues like diarrhea and coeliac disease
- Limited access to balanced meals
You may experience nutrition gaps if you can’t consume balanced foods consistently. Nutrition gaps usually mean you lack all the necessary vitamins and minerals for healthy living.
Food supplements like multivitamins, minerals, and protein powders help you bridge these nutrient gaps by providing extra nutritional value to balance your food intake.
Another common reason for taking nutritional supplements is to improve health. Different nutrients improve your health in different ways, such as calcium strengthening your bones and vitamin E preventing free radical damage. Naturally, these nutrients will help your body if consumed reasonably through food intake and supplements.
However, it’s essential not to consume too many supplements because some substances like Vitamin D can affect your body adversely if present in large amounts.
Support Exercise Goals
Supplements are often used to achieve exercise goals related to your body. For instance, a bodybuilder can take whey protein as a pre-workout supplement to build muscle.
When designing a supplementation program to achieve your fitness goals, the most important thing is to match the product to the exercise goal. Research what kind of supplements help you reach your exercise goal before purchasing.
Are Supplements Effective?
There is evidence that supplements are effective, but the science is somewhat unclear. While supplements contain beneficial nutrients for your body, they may not make you live longer, protect you from disease, or slow cognitive decline despite the claims of various manufacturers. A supplement brand is forbidden from making statements or claims that their products treat, cure, or prevent disease.
You should take supplements with care because they may have adverse effects if you have certain health conditions. Dietary supplements are less strictly regulated, so there may be some ingredients that aren’t listed on the product label or product formulation sheet. You should be careful with new products and never take the manufacturer’s advertising material at face value since there may not be enough studies to prove their effectiveness.
That said, supplements may still be useful for bridging the nutritional gaps by providing nutrients not found in your daily food intake.
Pros And Cons Of Supplements
A good supplementation program may help you lead a healthier life because you’ll get extra nutrients not available in your daily food intake. However, you should understand the pros and cons of supplements before consuming them:
Pros Of Supplements
Here are the advantages of taking supplements:
Easier To Prepare
Not everybody has the time and money to prepare balanced meals consistently. Decreased appetite and chewing difficulties may also make consuming a balanced diet more demanding. Aside from convenience, high-quality foods like fresh produce are relatively expensive, so they are harder for some people to get.
Most supplements come in pill, gummy, or powder form, making them much easier to consume than a full-course meal. Various manufacturers also sell supplements at affordable prices, making them easier to purchase.
Keeps Your Diet Consistent
Radical diet changes aren’t easy, especially for those without the time or energy to make a major lifestyle change. Instead of changing how you eat, you can easily add supplements to your meals and fulfill your nutritional needs.
May Help Prevent Disease
While supplements aren’t guaranteed to treat, cure, or prevent disease, they provide the nutrients required for your body to do so when your diet doesn’t.
For example, vitamin D is essential to fight bone diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, but you may not consume enough vitamin D-rich food products like red meat and fish. Supplements may give you the extra vitamin D needed to prevent bone disease.
Cons Of Supplements
There are some drawbacks to taking supplements:
Cannot Replace Food Entirely
As the name implies, supplements only complement food intake and can’t replace balanced meals entirely. Supplement pills and capsules don’t provide the fibre needed to feel full, so you may be constantly hungry if your food intake consists only of supplements.
May Interfere With Medications
Some substances in dietary supplements may interact with drugs you’ve consumed to produce adverse effects. If you’re taking medication for a certain health problem, consult a healthcare professional and get advice before consuming supplements.
Overconsumption Can Be Harmful
Most supplements provide the nutrients that your body needs in small amounts, like vitamins and minerals. Taking too many supplements leads to harmful levels of vitamins or minerals in your body, which may cause hypercalcemia, cardiovascular issues, and other adverse effects.
Choosing The Right Supplements In Canada
So you’ve asked your healthcare professional for advice and found which supplements are right for you. However, there are so many options available on the market from various manufacturers.
Here are three things to consider as customers when you’re choosing supplements in Canada:
Supplement quality is essential because the best dietary supplements give you the most value for money and are less likely to have unwanted effects.
Do these things when shopping for supplements in Canada to determine their quality:
- Evaluate the supplement’s manufacturing quality by looking for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certifications. Also, make sure the supplement is produced at a Health Canada-registered facility.
- Check who the supplements are tested on. Supplements that have gone through human clinical trials are usually of higher quality.
- Examine the “other ingredients” section in the supplement’s product formulation and avoid substances like sugars, mineral oil, and colouring.
- Wait for studies to be published before buying new products to ensure their safety and efficacy.
- Buy from a trusted supplement brand that has a good reputation.
More nutrients aren’t always better, especially for substances that your body only needs a small amount of, like vitamins and minerals. Since overconsumption is an issue, estimate how much nutrients you get through your regular diet and choose a dosage that bridges your nutrient gap.
Some nutrients like magnesium come in different forms, like sulphate, taurate, and magnesium chloride. Contact your physician to learn which type of nutrient is the best for you.
Health Canada requires all vitamins and dietary supplements to be approved and licensed before hitting the market. This means Health Canada examines the health claims of supplement products before manufacturers can sell them.
While Health Canada screens supplements on the market to ensure their safety, customers must also be vigilant. Here’s how to stay safe when purchasing and consuming supplements in Canada:
- Research the supplement statements or claims on the manufacturer’s advertising material and product label. If the statements or claims sound too good to be true, they probably are.
- Don’t treat supplements as substitutes for medication or real food.
- Don’t assume that “natural” supplements are automatically safe for you.
- Don’t buy new products simply because they have the lowest prices, best deals, and special offers.
- Take supplements in the recommended dosage.
- Buy from a reliable supplement source with a good reputation.
- Check the product label every time you buy in case there are product formulation changes.
- Contact a physician before deciding to buy a supplement product.
Supplements aren’t guaranteed to treat, cure, or prevent disease, but they do provide the nutrients your body needs outside of your regular food intake. These additional nutrients may prevent disease, complement your diet, and help you achieve your fitness goals.
However, you should also be mindful of the risks of using supplements, like drug interactions and overconsumption. You should never skip eating food for supplements either because you may constantly be hungry due to lacking fibre.
That said, supplements can be useful if taken wisely and in moderation. Consult with a healthcare professional and research all claims made on a manufacturer’s advertising material before purchasing and consuming supplements in Canada.