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Does it make sense to take dietary supplements?

A balanced diet, alongside exercise and plenty of sleep, is increasingly seen as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Despite these trends, however, many of us still take supplements. Are they effective in improving health? And are there times when should you exercise caution?

More and more people are taking vitamin products or other supplements in order to boost performance and strengthen their immune system. It's safe to say that if you have a balanced diet, you won't need supplements of any kind. Nevertheless, it may make sense to take dietary supplements if you are placing increased demands on your body. 

Increased need
In some situations – for example, if you're pregnant or nursing, taking intensive exercise, or in old age – it can be helpful to take special nutrients which support bodily functions and promote regeneration. Pregnant women, for instance, are recommended to include artificial folic acid as part of their diet because folic acid deficiency can lead to severe birth defects.

Supplements can also be useful for athletes who work out intensively more than six times a week for over an hour. But those who simply go jogging or visit a fitness centre once or twice a week have no requirement. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables provides the body with all the vitamins and nutrients it needs. Where there is a requirement, supplements should be taken as well as – not instead of – a normal diet.  
Be careful
Dietary supplements are not medicines. Vitamin products and other similar preparations are simply powdered or extracted components of ordinary foodstuffs which are offered in a concentrated form in tablets, capsules, powders and drinks. Most of these products can be bought without a doctor's prescription and are available practically everywhere. You should be particularly careful, however, when buying these products online. They may be contaminated or contain harmful substances.
They can also damage your health if you use them inappropriately or take the wrong dosage. You should therefore seek advice from your doctor and match the supplements to your actual needs instead of simply experimenting.

As a SWICA customer you can get expert advice from the doctors and medical staff at the sante24 health advice helpline – free of charge, around the clock. On request, sante24 can also make a doctor’s appointment for you. Tel. +41 (0)44 404 86 86