Access Allied Health

Should I take nutritional supplements?

Access Allied Health - Thursday, February 07, 2013

In my youth, as newly-graduated dietitian armed with idealistic ambition to make the world a healthier place I would have answered this question a little differently than I will today.  Back then, when the broccoli was greener, I suspected that a lack of education was the main cause of rising fast food sales and the unpopularity of lentils.  “If I tell them,” I thought as I hummed the ‘Rocky’ theme song, “they will change”.  Surely all the motivation one needed to mix cottage cheese into their brown rice was the knowledge that their daily molybdenum requirement will be met (yes molybdenum IS an actual nutrient).

Armed with this belief and my youthful exuberance, I previously would have been quick to state the fact that a good diet will meet all nutritional requirements and the use of nutritional supplements is quite literally money down the toilet.  But now I’m not so young, I’m not so self-assured and while I still fundamentally believe in good nutrition for optimal health, I now consider there to be more than one way to skin a cat so to speak.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I mean, what sort of dietitian would I be if I thought that the food we eat couldn’t be meet our nutritional needs.  Of course it can – but does it?  While I don’t expect our molybdenum requirements to be the major driver of our food choices (anymore), far too often our frantic lifestyle and need of convenience are leading us to form food habits not conducive to meeting our nutritional needs.

Ok, ok – I’ll admit - I’ve only ever met one person in my years of practice that showed clinical signs from a vitamin deficiency and acute symptoms of dietary inadequacy in the developed world are rare.  So maybe it’s just some remaining idealistic ambition that I can’t shake, in continuing to push for dietary change – after all we seem to be doing alright.  However, when we consider non-clinical markers – such as fatigue, malaise and poor workplace productivity perhaps there remains a case for dietary change and a revitalised campaign to meet requirements.

While lifestyle change will always remain the flagship to correcting these dietary deficiencies, perhaps a multivitamin may offer, dare I say it, a reasonable solution.  Or perhaps I'm simply getting old and cynical.  Either way, before attempting dietary change or choosing a nutritional supplement, please speak to an expert - an accredited practicing dietitian.

 

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