Our experts tell us how dietary supplements can boost our health. By Sasha Gonzales
Are vitamins and supplements good for you? (Photo: Mizianitka / www.pixabay.com)
Dietary supplements aren’t a cure-all, and there are important things to note before starting on them. But, there can be health benefits reaped from adding specific vitamins, on top of your healthy diet.
1. Possible health benefit of dietary supplements: They can help slow down ageing
According to Magdalin Cheong, chief dietitian and assistant director with Dietetic & Food Services, Changi General Hospital, certain vitamins and minerals can minimise problems associated with ageing. In the Framingham Heart Study in the US, for example, it was found that those who consumed 180mg of omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) per day had a 50 per cent reduction in dementia.
Other studies have shown that carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with the prevention of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts as well as retinitis pigmentosa, where there is damage to the retina. The B vitamins, especially choline, improve memory. And vitamin D, necessary for efficient calcium absorption, can help decrease your risk of bone loss and fractures.
2. Possible health benefit of dietary supplements: Some vitamins and minerals can boost immunity
Vitamin C and zinc can assist immunity, optimising white blood cell performance, says Graeme Bradshaw, naturopath, homeopath and founding director of the Integrated Medicine Institute in Hong Kong. “Several studies on vitamin C show a daily dose of 200mg creates optimal immune activity. In the US-based Nurses’ Health Study, premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer, who consumed an average of 205mg a day of vitamin C, had a 63 per cent lower risk of breast cancer than those who consumed an average of 70mg a day.”
3. Possible health benefit of dietary supplements: Some supplements may reduce your cancer risk
Methylation is a toxic process that harms genetic material in your cells. And DNA damage is associated with cancer. Graeme says that folic acid (folate), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 protect cells from this type of damage. “These B vitamins act to detoxify certain carcinogens,” he explains.
Folic acid is found in green vegetables, and approximately 40 per cent of most populations are deficient in this nutrient. Vegetarians usually do not get enough vitamin B12.
“Both vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies may lead to an elevated rate of DNA damage and altered methylation damage of DNA, both of which are important risk factors for cancer,” explains Graeme. He adds that selenium, too, has a protective effect – the mineral helps purge our cells of carcinogenic substances.