Many studies confirm widespread Vitamin D deficiencies, magnesium intake is below recommended levels in up to 15% of the population and many of us do not eat enough oily fish to ensure adequate essential fatty acid (EFA) intake.
Sarah Firnberg of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (MNIMH) recently presented a very valuable seminar to Medical Herbalists on how to prescribe nutritional supplements. The combination of herbal medicines and nutritional supplements provides effective treatment for many conditions.
Prescribing nutritional supplements can, however, be a minefield of variation and confusion. There are many companies selling supplements so it is important to identify the best and most efficacious products. Sarah identified two main issues when selecting a brand: marketing hype and issues which affect quality and suitability.
She advised on the best forms of the most common and effective supplements: multivitamins, magnesium, EFAs, vitamin D, pro-biotics, Coenzyme Q 10 and digestive enzymes.
One of the key issues was bioavailability that is the amount of supplement absorbed and available for action in the body. For example, magnesium oxide often found in supplements as the source of magnesium has poor bioavailability whereas magnesium citrate is rapidly absorbed in the gut. Manufacturers should provide details of both the form of the supplement and the manufacturing process.
Another consideration is that synthetic nutrients, synthesised from non-organic sources, are cheaper with a longer shelf life when compared to natural forms derived from food sources but they may be poorly absorbed by the body and less effective.
The requirement for nutritional supplements depends on factors such as age, gender, diet and health. The supplements chosen for each individual will then depend on whether they are taken to maintain good health, to treat nutritional deficiency caused by poor diet or drug treatment or to treat disease. It is vital to select the most appropriate supplement in the best form and dose to ensure maximum benefit.