What Is A Dietary Supplement and Who Should Take Them?

what is a dietary supplement

In a perfect world people would get all the nutrients they need simply from eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. But, the world isn’t perfect and the hectic pace of modern life combined with other factors means that most people are not getting the nutrients they need from the food they eat. Even if people are able to eat a balanced diet, the food we get from the grocery store is often lacking in nutritional value due to produce sitting too long before we consume it, or the preservation process of other foods. Many people tend to eat high calorie foods that have very little nutritional content to begin with because they’re faster to prepare, or because they’re seeking comfort foods due to stress, or because they can’t afford higher quality food. A dietary supplement helps bridge the nutrition gap and can make sure that people are getting the nutrients that they need to stay healthy.

How A Dietary Supplement Helps Your Body

The human body doesn’t know where a nutrient comes from. It breaks down everything that you eat into basic components. As long as it gets the vitamins and minerals that it needs, it doesn’t matter if those nutrients are coming from food or from a supplement.

A concentrated dietary supplement is an easy and cost-effective way to make sure that your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals that it needs to function properly. Some dietary supplements contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals that will supercharge your immune system and help your body fight off disease [1].

Other supplements are specifically formulated to help stop inflammation, lower your risk of certain medical problems, or just give your body vitamins and minerals that are hard to find in food.

Who Should Take A Dietary Supplement?

Ideally everyone should take a dietary supplement for better overall health. But some people need extra nutritional support and are less likely than others to get that support from food alone. Some of the people who should be taking dietary supplements daily include:

Children and Dietary Supplements

Children need a lot of vitamins and minerals in order to grow the way they should. Their bodies and brains are constantly developing and need extra support. Very often food alone doesn’t give kids the vitamins their bodies need to develop properly. Almost all pediatricians recommend that children should take a multivitamin daily [2].

Dietary Supplements for the Elderly

As people get older they tend to not eat properly. The lack of a healthy diet combined with an increased need for vitamins and minerals as they age can cause serious health problems for seniors. That’s why doctors recommend a daily dietary supplement for seniors as well as for children.

Pregnant Women and Dietary Supplementation

Pregnant women need iron and other minerals as well as extra amounts of vitamins to make sure that their babies are developing properly and staying healthy in the womb. Doctors recommend that women start taking prenatal vitamins immediately as soon as they know that they are pregnant [3].


  1. Dietary Supplements
    Copyright © 1989 by the National Academy of Sciences. Bookshelf ID: NBK218768
    National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989.
  2. Why US children use dietary supplements
    Regan L. Bailey,1,* Jaime J. Gahche,2 Paul R. Thomas,1 and Johanna T. Dwyer1,3 Pediatr Res. 2013 Dec; 74(6): 737–741. Published online 2013 Oct 9. Prepublished online 2013 Sep 3. doi: [10.1038/pr.2013.160]
  3. Dietary Supplements During Pregnancy
    Amy Schweitzer, MS, RD J Perinat Educ. 2006 Fall; 15(4): 44–45. doi: [10.1624/105812406X107834]
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