If you were in your pre-teens in the 1990’s and are reading this,your parents may have made the very wise decision to send you to boarding school and among the many items that were on your back to school shopping list was either a bottle of Scott’s Emulsion or Seven Seas Cod Live oil.
Unlike today where Scott’s Emulsion is available in Strawberry flavor and you can get it in chew-able Pastilles or Gummies then we had to deal with the arduous task of taking a teaspoonful of this fish oil as it was.
That was our first introduction to nutrition in a bottle and then because we did not know better,we took it whenever we felt like it and consequently by the end of the term you would end up with more than 2 unfinished bottles of cod liver oil which when you went home you could not satisfactorily explain to your mother why you had not been taking .
The contents of the bottle of Cod liver oil were meant to strengthen our immune system as the boarding school we went to tucked somewhere in the scenic location of Kyeni could get really cold especially in the second term , the longest term of the year when temperatures were very low.
On a clear morning,you might probably see the tip of Mount Kenya the air was crisp and fresh,no other place could boast such fresh air,but wait till winter set in during the months of May-July,that is when we saw our breath turn into mist when we walked outside of the dorm for some of the quickest showers I have had. Later we would cover ourselves in scarves and what we then called leg warmers which were knitted socks but without a heel and which we put on over our white socks.Second term was the period in school when you made the most visits to the school matron who also doubled up as the school nurse .For anything she could not treat she sent you to Kyeni Hospital which was tucked into these cul de sac that included a primary school,high school and church complete with a nunnery and a hospital. That’s is when you got to spend a few hours out of school ,sitted on a hospital bench waiting your turn to see a doctor.
The purpose of the cod liver oil was meant to keep these visits to the hospitals to a minimum but we adhered to our own rules and with no one to ensure we took the fish oil daily,well we ended up at the sanatorium more often than our mothers would have liked.
There are various stages in our lives where our dietary intake of the required nutrients,especially vitamins and minerals may not be adequate or maybe needed in extra amounts .Ideally we should get all our nutrients from our diets but changing dietary patterns or conditions necessitate intake of supplements.
Thanks to scientists who found a way to package some of the 13 essential vitamins we need as humans in a pill format a in the 1930’s and 40’s and nowadays there are a wide range of nutrition supplements you can buy over the counter.
However,before you go buy that bottle or box of supplements,a key question to ask yourself would be ,do I really need it?
And how do you determine if you really need that supplement.
If you are eating healthy and at every meal y are able to eat your recommended amounts of energy giving food(carbohydrates),protein,vegetables and fruits then supplements will not be the first thing you reach out for every morning.A balanced diet should be able to cater for all your nutritional needs.
It becomes an issue when your diet consists of mostly highly processed foods that are high in fat which puts you at risk of suffering from a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.Our bodies need 13 vitamins to thrive,Vitamins A,C,D,E,K and 8 from the B group of vitamins.The Global Micro nutrient deficiency crisis has only become of major concern in areas where there is over nutrition and people especially in urban areas have increased their intake of calories,animal protein and are taking too little of the plant proteins, fresh fruits ,vegetables and in areas where we have humanitarian crisis and there is under nutrition.
In vulnerable groups such as in young children,pregnant and lactating mothers and the elderly ,doctors may recommend taking of supplements to safe guard against potential risk of running into deficincies.Mircronutirents are especially important in the stages in life like childhood and pregnancy because these are periods where a lot of physical changes are taking place and micro nutrients play a very vital role in these bodily changes .(You may want to refer to the previous post to learn about the very important role of micronutirents).They are key ingredients of growth and a deficiency may result in a lasting physical impairment.
In the elderly their intake of nutritional supplements may be necessary as they may not be able to absorb it very well from what they eat daily. Due to a decreased appetite we tend to consume less as we grow older which affects the consumption of certain foods that provide essential nutrients. Of special importance is the intake of calcium in the elderly which is highly affected as we get older and research has shown that we consume less calcium as we age.Calcium is essential for healthy bones and no wonder there is an increase in bone related injuries as we age as bones due to a decreased intake of both Calcium and Vitamin D which are essential for healthy bones results in weak and brittle bones .
For post menopausal women the risk of injuries is higher as the levels of estrogen in the body decrease,among the many functions of oestrogen is that it protects our bones and ensures they are strong and healthy .The drop in oestrogen levels after menopause leaves women prone to bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis which is a condition where the bones become thinner and may easily fracture.
For women a diet of 3-4 servings of dairy is recommended as well as physical exercise but more on that in the next article.
If you are eating well already,you might not need to use nutrition supplements as a nutirient rich diet should be able to cater for all the nutrients your body needs .However if your diet is poor and you are prone to infections seek your doctors advice before you get on the path of taking nutrition supplements.