IOC consensus statement supplements (part 2)

Prevention of nutrition deficiencies

Do you have a deficiency?

A simple blood test can usually tell you whether or not you are missing out on something. A regular blood test analyzes only the most common micronutrient deficiencies and only when there is a suspected shortage of something else a specific test is done.

Other ways to evaluate if you’re at risk for any deficiencies are:

  • Medical history – Do you have any symptoms that might indicate a deficiency?
  • Nutrition history – Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet on a daily basis?
  • Body composition analysis – A low bone mineral density can indicate a calcium deficiency.

What to do if you do have a deficiency?

One solution, if you have a deficiency, is to take a supplement specifically targeting what you lack and hope for better results in the next blood test.

A better approach is to figure out what the real reason is you’re having this deficiency. A lot of the time you can solve it and avoid future problems by making a change in your nutritional habit. For example, if you’re suffering from an iron deficiency, eat more products high in iron, like red meat and green leafy vegetables might help. Some vitamins help absorb certain minerals, for example vitamin C helps absorbing iron.

Depending on the severity of the deficiency you can opt for temporary support by supplementing a specific mineral or vitamin. Also when for some reason it isn’t possible to get a mineral or vitamin from regular food,  one can opt for a supplement. Vegans and vegetarians, for example, are advised to take a supplement of vitamin B12.

When deciding on taking a supplement always check with your doctor for the right dose and any counter-indications.

Should I take supplements to prevent deficiencies?

Vitamins and minerals shouldn’t be taken as an insurance policy. Just as not having enough, too much can cause health problems as well. For the same reason, you shouldn’t apply a “more is better” strategy when it comes to supplements. While it’s not that easy to overdose by eating regular food, it’s very easy to ingest too many micronutrients by taking a few extra pills.

That being said in some cases there is a reason to believe a person is at high risk for a deficiency and prevention might be a good idea. People living in northern countries, for example, are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter months. It might be a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.



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Based on the latest consensus statement of the IOC regarding supplements.