Dietary supplements: How to help your clients mitigate the risk of harmful intakes

Many young children and adults of all ages take supplements for various health reasons, and it continues to be widely recommended. However, many still do not understand that there are certain risks associated with dietary supplements, especially with wrong combinations or excessive dosing. Wrong supplement advice is a serious concern among health and wellness professionals. If supplements are not taken correctly, they could harm a person’s health.

So, how can you help your clients mitigate the risk of wrong dietary supplement intakes? By acquiring the knowledge that enables you to understand how and when supplements work (and when they don’t). With this knowledge, you’d be able to provide the proper dietary supplement recommendations to your clients and also learn how to investigate the evidence behind new supplements that come into the market before putting them forward. 

To help you get started, let’s discuss some important fundamentals about dietary supplements and potential professional opportunities you could explore.

What we should know about dietary supplements

The global nutritional supplement market is projected to reach global revenue of USD 245.43 billion by 2023. This is a vast market, and even more supplements are being released into the market every day! And because many people are becoming more health conscious and taking steps to remain healthier, they are now interested in different things that have been advocated to improve health and wellbeing, including dietary supplements.

It’s so easy to access these supplements as you can buy them online and have them delivered to your homes. You do not even need a prescription to get many of them. Also, these supplements come in many forms (liquid, gel, chewing pastille and more), shapes (capsules, pills and others) and even sizes. But their effectiveness also varies. How so?

How can we tell when supplements work and when they don’t?

The effectiveness of supplements may vary depending on several factors such as:

  • Formulation – For example, powder inside a capsule versus liquid drops; depending on the active ingredient, one may be more effective than the other
  • Transport and storage – For example, light and heat can degrade the Omega 3s DHA/EPA and fat-soluble vitamins; environmental factors can degrade the active ingredients inside some supplements
  • Dosage of the active ingredient – Do they contain enough dosage of the required active ingredient you need? Or is the amount of the active ingredient marginal, and most of the supplement is filled with other substances?
  • Absorptive potential – How much can the body absorb?
  • Actual bioavailability – How much of the active ingredient is available to its intended biological destination – such as immune cells, brain cells, skin cells
  • Combination with other nutrients or food substances – Is that combination enhancing or deterring the absorption of the active ingredient?
  • Time of the day it is being taken – For example, probiotic drinks are best taken in the morning on an empty stomach
  • Whether taken alone or with food – For example, mineral supplements are best taken with food, whereas some amino acid supplements are best taken in isolation. When not taken the right way, we can disrupt their effectiveness.
  • The person’s nutrient needs and their ability to absorb and utilise the active ingredients, among others

These are just a few ways to measure the effectiveness of supplements. There is still a ton of ongoing research on the efficacy of supplements, and as we know, science takes time to evaluate different elements of food substances, and these elements need to be assessed in isolation, too.

Take psychobiotics, for instance – the mental-health prebiotic supplements that are all the rage right now. But scientists have just begun investigating their effectiveness for mood regulation, and they may not work for everyone.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of vitamin and mineral supplements and Omega supplements have been investigated for many decades and in different populations. And now we know a lot about them. Rules, exceptions, and all! So much so that, for example, Public Health England recommends that all of us take a vitamin D supplement due to population-wide vitamin D deficiency risk – not just for immune health but for bone and muscle health.

But the verdict is still out regarding the effectiveness of so many new supplements that are currently being sold.

Now that you know that there are many supplements out there, and certain factors can affect their effectiveness, how can you still help your clients get closer to their health goals while mitigating the risk of harmful intakes?

Personalisation is vital when working with clients and providing dietary supplements recommendations.

Supplement Personalisation

Personalisation by product type is a common occurrence when it comes to dietary supplements recommendations. But how effective is this?

Different health concerns have different products that address them. For educational purposes, let’s examine some products (with which we have no product affiliation) and their corresponding customer segments.

This would help us understand how product personalisation by health concerns works. Also, the client segments would provide unique professional opportunities you can maximise once you have completed the Advanced Dietary Supplements Advisor™ certification.

Immune Seekers

This segment has expanded since the pandemic; more and more of us have become immune seekers and are purchasing products and foods that provide us with immune support. An example of a supplement that addresses this health concern might be a product that contains prebiotics (such as a biotic shot), a pill combining vitamins D, C, A. Zinc, iron, calcium, or a triple-strength Omega 3 DHA/EPA capsule.

Interestingly, according to 2020 Euromonitor research during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 1 in 2 immune seekers prefer to get vitamins and nutrients from the foods they eat – rather than supplements.
  • This means that potentially 50% of your immune seeking clients may prefer to address their diet as a whole.
  • However, the other 50% might look at supplement expertise from YOU.
  • Also, 72% of immune seekers want to improve their eating habits.

So most immune seekers want to improve how they eat, which means that they may be actively seeking solutions beyond supplements. Once you have acquired the expertise to provide personalised recommendations to this group of clients, you can effectively support them.

Sleep Seekers

Did you know that 63% of American consumers will rather try the relaxation supplement than sleep medications? That’s half the consumer base of sleep seekers. So, they do not want to take something that would put them right to sleep but want to try a supplement that can help them relax.

An example of a supplement product in this category may contain botanical extracts and magnesium to aid relaxation and sleep onset.

Brain Health Seekers

You may have clients seeking some support for memory, cognition, mental agility, and all things that have to do with brain performance. An example of a supplement product that supports brain health seekers might be a product that contains neuro-nutrients such as essential vitamins and amino acids, alongside flanonols that support cognition.

Eye Care Seekers

These are clients seeking help with any issue surrounding their vision. They could be ageing populations or older individuals seeking to maintain their vision, so their eyesight capacity isn’t being reduced. Or it could be children with eye issues or people experiencing vision problems due to too much exposure to screens, along with other types of clients.

There are many supplements out there to address these concerns, and they may contain lutein and vitamin A. The vitamin A found in these supplements may be in the form of beta carotene, which is the plant form, or from retinol, the animal form.

Digestive-aids Seekers

These clients are seeking to minimise digestive discomfort. Examples of products in this category may contain milk thistle’s silymarin to soothe indigestion and stomach upset.

Gut health products also include biotic drinks and probiotic supplements, which are either freeze-dried or in liquid drops. Probiotic liquid drops should not be added to solid food as it becomes harder for the live microorganisms to survive during digestion. Instead, it is often recommended that probiotic drops are added to fluids that are below 40 degrees Celsius, given that these little edible bugs (probiotics) are sensitive to heat and to consume these fluids first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to ensure a higher survival rate.

Detoxification Seekers

According to WHO, 92% of the global population are exposed to hazardous air pollution. So, this group of clients want to support the natural detoxification mechanisms in their bodies.

An example of a product in this category may contain nutrients that support the body’s detoxification pathways, such as sulphur-containing amino acids and antioxidant phytochemical compounds. There is a lot of ongoing research around these types of supplements.

Skincare Seekers

These clients may want to prolong the youthfulness and subtleness of their skin and also hair growth. They may also want to stimulate their nail strength and growth and look to supplements to achieve these goals.

An example of a supplement product in this category may contain essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids that support skin, nails, and hair.

Weight-loss Seekers

Individuals interested in weight management may seek a variety of supplements – from probiotics to prebiotics (fibre), stimulants like green tea, thermogenic substances like capsaicin, protein powders, and appetite-regulating short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate or propionate.

An example of a product in this category may contain fibre for appetite control and regular bowel movement, perhaps because weight-loss seekers’ diets are not as rich in fibre, or maybe they have digestive issues, and they can’t tolerate certain amounts of fibre, so need supplements to help them address these concerns.

However, it’s not sufficient to just recommend supplements products to your clients right off the bat. There are underlying issues with single product personalisation, and this may affect your clients adversely.

Issues with single product personalisation

What might be some of the downsides of purchasing single products addressing a particular health concern?

  • This magic-bullet approach may be incomplete – We need to look at your client’s whole diet and identify the nutrients that may be missing or required in larger quantities based on the person’s health status, age, gender, and other factors.
  • These products targeted to specific health concerns contain fixed amounts of the active ingredients – What if your client needs a lower or a higher dose for each active ingredient?
  • The product may not live up to the health claims:
    • Are there peer-reviewed human clinical trials published in high-impact scientific journals backing up this particular product
    • Another problem is that many manufacturers cite research from competitor products that are long established and have spent years adjusting their formulation for better absorption and efficacy instead of carrying out new research of their own to demonstrate safety and efficacy.
    • What are the risks, side effects, or contraindications for using this supplement? This requires your personalised advice.

There is no one-stop supplement solution to solving all of your client’s health concerns. Each of your clients requires a personalised approach for helping them address their health issues and goals, and therefore personalisation is key.

Your next steps

You could make a difference by acquiring the knowledge and expertise required for building personalised dietary supplements programs for your clients so you can mitigate their risk of harmful intakes.

At The Health Sciences Academy, we have received numerous questions like:

“Do supplements work?”

“Are they safe?”

“What about bad combinations?”

“But can’t foods provide the same nutrients?”

“Which ones should my client be taking?”

We got to work to develop the Advanced Dietary Supplements Advisor™ certification so you can help your clients by providing safe supplement advice for their unique goals.

When you complete this certification, you will learn how to:

  • Perform symptom and nutrient evaluations, and provide results with personalised recommendations
  • Educate your clients about toxicity levels, potential side effects, and interactions with medicines
  • Adjust supplement doses for exercisers, children, teenagers, pregnant women and clients over 50, and so much more

We have also made it easy for you to complete this certification by giving you access to a 7-day free trial. This means you can start learning immediately without paying!

Start your 7-day free trial here.

Also, do you want to learn more about dietary supplements and how this knowledge can expand your nutrition practice? And do you need accredited CPD hours for your continuing education professional requirements?

Join our LIVE CPD-certified webinar on Friday 2 July with UCL Researcher and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, Alex Ruani, at 4:00 PM (UK time).

Go here to save your seat now.

See Also

Continuing Education Bundle

Upcoming Webinar

[PDF] Should We Fear GMOs?

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© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.





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