Over-the-Counter Health Supplements: Hype or Hope?

You probably wish you could turn back the clock to a mystical past in which you felt younger, stronger, and more vital. Whether you ever actually lived in that past is another story, but the folks responsible for marketing and distributing the growing array of over-the-counter health supplements sure are good at bringing it to life. If you’re considering buying one or more of the products you see on TV, online, or on the shelves at your local health-foods store, take a moment to consider whether these supplements are anything more than hyped-up sugar pills.

Defining Health Supplements

Also known as “dietary supplements,” most of these products come in pill form and are readily available on the shelves of your local supermarket or health food store at a variety of price points. Some, like “B-complex” and “immune booster” pills, are little more than cocktails of everyday vitamins that retail for a few dollars per bottle. Others are more complex, containing a variety of obscure herbal compounds, and are correspondingly more expensive.

In any event, the Food and Drug Administration defines the “dietary ingredients” in these supplements as anything that can be considered a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, or “extract.” As you can imagine, some perform their stated functions better than others.

Regulation and Fact-Checking

Since their active ingredients have the potential to cause serious harm when not taken properly, prescription medications are tightly regulated by the FDA. Not so with health supplements: the companies that market these products are not required to disclose the results of studies that test the efficacy of their constituent compounds. In other words, you’re taking the supplement at your own risk.

What Works, What Doesn’t

Most health supplement ingredients are not actively harmful; more often, it’s merely a question of whether or not they work. A quick rundown of some effective and not-so-effective supplements follows.

  • Joint health. The two most common joint health compounds are chondroitin and glucosamine, both of which occur naturally in human cartilage. Although initial claims that they actually help rebuild joint cartilage that wears down due to rheumatoid arthritis have been proven false, they do appear to reduce pain and inflammation in sufferers of the disease.
  • Heart health. These supplements contain everything from Vitamin E, garlic extract, and Omega-3 fish oils to green tea and red yeast rice. Only red yeast rice has been proven to reduce “bad” cholesterol, but that’s only because it mimics an active ingredient in popular prescription medications like Altoprev.
  • Memory. Most of the supplements that claim to improve cognitive function contain gingko biloba, a naturally-occurring plant extract. It has been conclusively proven to improve the memories of dementia patients and increase blood flow to the brain, but it carries the risk of side effects including bleeding, dizziness, and vomiting.

Even the most effective over-the-counter health supplements, like gingko biloba, have drawbacks that should not be taken lightly. Many more simply don’t do what they claim to. Before buying any non-prescription supplements, do your research, talk to other users, and make an informed decision on your own terms.

Tamera Mulkey is a freelance blogger, who writes about health topics. If you want to make a career in the health industry, Tamera recommends getting a master of science in nursing online.

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Would You Call Yourself Nutritious? 4 Easy Steps to Correct Nutrition

Considering all of the marketing and food industry giants that have dug their claws into the institution that is proper nutrition, it is no surprise that its image has suffered. The effects of these misinformation campaigns, false claims, fad diets and fad workouts have already manifested in climbing obesity rates and heart disease. It used to be that people would just compare car insurance quotes and money related things, now they have to compare supplements!

With one in four children suffering from type II diabetes, one in three Americans obese, and over 160 million dollars in hospital costs for obesity, it is time to mount the movement to restore proper nutrition. Individually, by establishing a diet regiment, managing toxicity, supplementing with workout routines, and keeping a positive mindset, everyone can play their part in this much needed paradigm shift.

1. Establishing a Solid Diet Regiment

In establishing a diet regiment, instead of joining the argument over what the correct percentages of macronutrients are in the diet in relation to each other, adhering to a more general framework and then narrowing specificity as the body reacts will ensure that individual needs are met. A journal or website that demands a diet composed of 35% carbohydrates, 45% protein, and 20% vitamins and minerals, for example, may serve as a decent archetype for the “average human” but fails to address individual differences and goals.

For active people, a diet of roughly 2500 calories is ideal, with protein and carbohydrates being the main staple macronutrients. Adjusting the relative amounts of these macronutrients is a matter of listening to the body and monitoring digestive and metabolic efficiency.

The best practice for someone beginning a new diet regiment is to picture the desired results and then work backwards to get achieve them. Weight loss diets, while effectively supplemented by exercise, should incorporate naturally fibrous and low-calorie fruits, lean protein, and “good” or complex carbohydrates for energy. Muscle mass diets should be composed of large amounts of both carbohydrates and lean protein, while integrating fat as well to total 3000 or more calories a day. An online personal trainer could also be a great option to help you get on on track.

2. Managing Toxicity

Frankly, because of pesticide and fast food industries fraught with skewed incentives, everyone on the planet is being subjected to an increasing amount of toxicity in their diets. Poorly maintained FDA standards in both of these industries has resulted in the contamination of food with high amounts of cadmium, mercury, lead, and even the pesticide DDT.

Managing these toxicity levels is a much harder endeavor than it used to be, as the integrity of the word “organic” is being destroyed by multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. Essentially, the only way to avoid contamination is to greatly reduce processed food in the diet. As it concerns the issue of pesticides and produce, foods like onions, sweet potatoes, watermelon, and pineapple require fewer pesticides and are healthier to eat. Learning the rest of this taxonomy will prove very useful for anyone trying to avoid toxicity in the diet.

3. Effective Supplementation

For either nutrition or exercise to be successful, they must be mutually inclusive. Especially for people who enjoy eating copious amounts of food, exercise is the single most effective tool for deterring the weight gain that will inevitably result. Working out just for the sake of combating binge eating, however, is addressing a problem with another problem.

Exercise allows for more calorie consumption, including fats, within the diet while improving metabolism, energy levels, and appearance. A body under strain needs fuel in the form of protein and carbohydrates to rebuild torn muscle fibers and re-energize. Timing is critical when refueling the body; the “glycemic window” as many refer to it is the first 30 minutes following exercise. This is when the body will most effeciently metabolize protein and use it to repair and strengthen torn muscle fibers. In this limited window of time, a 20 to 45 gram serving of a protein supplement is ideal for muscle recovery and growth.

4. Staying Disciplined, Creating Incentives and Defying Stereotypes

Self-forgiveness is a must, not just in practicing effective nutrition but in any pursuit. This is because of the frailty of the human psyche when it is strained by effort: it will use any slip-up as an excuse to regress to the unhealthy habits of the past. When dieting and exercise are taken seriously, the occasional donut or cheeseburger is fine, so long as it remains a passing pleasure as opposed to a consistent habit.

Another powerful tool in practicing strong nutrition is creating incentives. For every workout, for example, one should allow himself or herself a small reward, whether it be a favorite snack or activity. If this reward system is practiced consistently enough, the mind will become positively conditioned and encourage the body to exercise so that the reward may be realized.

Finally, in assembling the proper mental approach to nutrition and exercise, it is key to avoid the stigmas against carbohydrates and calories. Without either of these, life would not exist. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent, healthy fuel source that can be increased in the diet relative to exercise. Furthermore, they are foods that most people like to eat: pasta, bread, potatoes, and so on. Calories are nothing more than energy, as vital to life as water. The only time these two entities are a problem is when they build up residually as a result of poor or no exercise.

The best thing about working towards proper nutrition is that it is a “downward spiral” without the negative connotation; it gets easier and more enjoyable as more progress is made. Aside from increasing metabolism, digestion, energy levels, disease prevention, mood, stamina, strength, and longevity, proper nutrition guarantees visible improvements in appearance and confidence. It is the idealization of what proponents of positive change have been saying since the beginning: change begins from within, and spreads.

Author Bio: Lisa is a freelance writer for a fitness website full of weight training tips. She is always on the lookout for new ways to promote healthy living. When she isn’t outside doing her daily exercises, you can find her inside catching up on the newest television shows.

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Rapid Weight Loss with hCG Drops and the hCG Injections Diet

Some critics dismiss the hCG injections diet as the latest in a never-ending stream of fad diets, but if nothing else, it’s a diet with staying power. HCG weight loss programs have been around since the 1950s, ever since Dr. A.T.W. Simeons observed that obese patients given small amounts of the hormone on a daily basis would lose up to and over 30 pounds per month.

This might seem too good to be true, but it should be noted that the hormone’s main function is to act as an appetite suppressant that allegedly enables dieters to maintain a 500-calorie-per-day food allotment. If they can genuinely comply with eating such a small amount of food on a continual basis, rapid weight loss should be no surprise.

While the FDA approved hCG decades ago, the agency takes a strong position against its use as a diet supplement. They require hCG products to carry a disclaimer noting that the hormone has not been proven to reduce appetite, dissolve fat deposits or accelerate weight loss. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, produced in women in early stages or pregnancy, was approved by the FDA as a fertility drug.

Pure HCG drops (undiluted oral supplements) and injections are only available with a prescription, but homeopathic hCG drops can be purchased legally due to the extremely high dilution. HHCG drops are almost all water and no hormone. This accounts for the placebo effect that critics cite as one of the most frequent hCG diet dangers: compliance with Simeons’ Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) has less to due with HHCG’s potency as an appetite suppressant that the dieter’s belief in it. It can hardly be argued that the key weight loss factor is the low amount of food being consumed.

HCG injections within a weight loss clinic setting are the safest, most highly recommended program to take for anyone considering this diet. Patients spend three to five weeks, depending on their budget, receiving daily injections, then must quit the diet and the injections for a minimum of six weeks before resuming the program in order to prevent them from becoming immune to hCG. Regardless of whether or clinical setting is utilized, it’s essential to consult a doctor before embarking on a low-calorie hCG diet.

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Pills for Weight Loss

Taking a pill has something magical about it, but are pills for weight loss effective? Are Hoodia diet pills really so great? Should you use an appetite suppressant or a potent thermogenic? There is so much concern with obesity in this country that people as well as physicians need to think twice about using them.  The FDA has been quite active in evaluating the effectiveness of weight loss pills and their safety issues.  Three new pills have recently been taken off the market; Contrave, Lorquess and Qnexa.  Contrave contains an anti-depressant, Wellbutrin as well as naltrexone.  The combination causes increased blood pressure and heart rate.

If people think a diet pill will help then ask your doctor which one is the best.  At least prescription drugs are being monitored by the FDA.  Over the counter weight loss pills should always be questioned and especially if they are provided for online.  Consumers do not always know what they are getting since weight loss pills are a money maker.  Any type of drug will have side effects.  Consumer need to know this piece of information.

Every time a person browses the internet there is something about loosing belly fat with a drug.  A tummy is seen as bad when many people are genetically inclined to have visible tummies.  This is one of the reasons weight loss pills are so enticing.   There is no quick fix to becoming skinny.

In chronic situations a prescription diet pill will often be used for quick weight loss.  This solution must be combined with exercise and a good diet plan.  Appetite suppressants are often used.  They assist in breaking down fat and its elimination.  Prescription pills for weight loss can be addictive and a physician needs to monitor their use.  The effects of the drug can wear off.  Most should be used on a low fat diet.

Some of these drugs reduce the absorption of vitamins so a multi-vitamin should be taken two hours before taking the diet pill.  Other side affects are:  gas, increased bowel movements, cramping, and incontinence.

You can take an over the counter diet pill, but as with prescription diet pills, you have to exercise and watch what you eat.  When using any diet pill, make sure you are aware of your medical condition.  They can have side effects.    Also, keep in mind prescription weight loss are FDA approved and over the counter is not.

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