Supplements: who are they useful for and when to take them

Supplements: who are they useful for and when to take them


In Italy we consume more supplements than all of Europe, with an average monthly expense of 40 euros per person. But are they really necessary? The short answer is “generally no”. A varied and complete diet provides our body with all the nutrients it needs. Food supplements, in fact, are nothing more than concentrated sources of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) or other substances with nutritional or physiological effects.

Food supplements are not drugs

Unlike drugs, which must pass rigorous tests to prove their effectiveness, supplements are not required to prove their usefulness, but only need to be safe for human consumption. Therefore, a healthy adult with a varied and balanced diet does not require food supplements, but for some stages of life or particular conditions, supplementation could be useful or even necessary.

When and to whom they are needed

For example during the pregnancies women need a surplus of folic acid, fatty acids and vitamin D for the proper development of the fetus. The elderly people they may need to supplement calcium, vitamin D and, in some cases, amino acids to counteract sarcopenia and osteopenia. Who follows one vegan diet must integrate vitamin B12, present mainly in foods of animal origin.

The sportsmen need special mention as they may need supplementation depending on the level of physical activity performed. Amateur athletes in general do not need supplementation but the situation changes for professionals and for those who carry out intense physical activity. In fact, the use of branched chain amino acids can help you recover faster after training and reduce muscle soreness. Creatine, on the other hand, is a direct energy source for the muscle and is particularly useful for resistance efforts such as weight lifting.

For athletes in general, a slightly higher amount of protein is recommended than for the general population and therefore an athlete could consume up to 1.2 g/kg of weight per day of protein. Finally, athletes may need to supplement the mineral salts lost through sweating during physical activity. As mentioned before, some pathologies may require the use of food supplements or special diets but obviously these are managed by the treating doctor.

Vitamin deficiency

The pathological deficiency of vitamins is called hypovitaminosis and is a relatively rare condition, the only noteworthy hypovitaminosis is that of vitamin D which according to some studies affects up to 50% of the population in some periods of the year. The good news is that vitamin D is produced naturally and free of charge by our body after exposure to sunlight for just 20 minutes a day.

Pay attention to trends

Cyclically, a new food supplement arrives on the market that promises miraculous effects, but as we said at the beginning, supplements do not have to be tested for effectiveness and therefore any claims made by manufacturers must be carefully weighed and contextualized. Recently, the trend of vitamins taken intravenously has become very popular. This practice, in addition to being very expensive, has never demonstrated any positive effect on human health and if it is not carried out by specialized medical personnel it can also be very dangerous.

The golden rule: consult a doctor

In any case, it is always advisable to consult a doctor or nutritionist before taking any food supplement. The primary objective should be to follow a healthy and balanced diet, which provides our body with everything it needs to stay healthy. Supplements can be a useful complement, but should never replace proper nutrition.


  1. Supplements are not necessary for most people. A healthy and complete diet already provides all the nutrients the body needs.
  2. Integration is useful in some situations. For example, during pregnancy, for the elderly, for some pathologies, for vegans and high level athletes.
  3. Always consult a doctor or nutritionist before taking any supplement. The primary goal is a healthy and balanced diet. Supplements are just a complement.


Aureliano Stingi, doctor of molecular biology, works in the field of precision and longevity oncology

Instagram: Aureliano _Stingi Twitter: @AurelianoStingi


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