NORWALK, Conn., May 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Complementary and alternative medicine is a diverse group of health care practices not presently considered to be a part of traditional medicine. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of Americans use complementary and alternative medicine, which includes dietary supplements.
"The use of dietary supplements has grown considerably in the past two decades," said Peggy Fleming, Olympic figure skating champion and HealthSaver spokesperson.
While supplements can help you ingest the vitamins and minerals your body requires, they should not be used as a substitute for the nutrients and benefits a balanced diet provides. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that supplements should also not be used in place of prescription medicine.
"Dietary supplements can, however, help sustain proper body function
when your body does not otherwise receive the nutrients it requires," said
Brad Eggleston, vice president of HealthSaver.
-- Dietary supplements do not have the same testing and labeling process
as prescription and over-the-counter medications, so it is up to you,
the consumer, to evaluate a supplement for safety and effectiveness.
-- First, find out what risks the supplement carries. Internet research
should only include credible resources, such as government agencies and
major medical centers. Clinical studies, which involve testing with
human beings, will best reflect how you may react to the supplement.
In order to ensure recent findings, articles should be up to date.
-- Read the label. Do the supplement's active ingredients target your
health needs? The Mayo Clinic recommends looking for "USP" on the
label to ensure the supplement meets standards established by the U.S.
Pharmacopeia. The label should also include an expiration date.
-- More than 75 percent of Americans 50 years and older do not discuss
complementary and alternative medicine with their physicians, according
to a National Institutes of Health survey. Yet it is important to
consult your physician before taking dietary supplements because, much
like prescription medicines, supplements can cause adverse effects,
including interactions with other medicines. For example, people
taking high blood pressure medication may lower their blood pressure
too much if also taking fish oil supplements.
-- Vitamins convert food into energy and maintain proper digestion and
-- Many biological processes require vitamins, though opinions on the
health benefits of multivitamin supplements remain divided. One
essential nutrient with few side effects is Vitamin C, an antioxidant
which helps your body absorb iron.
-- Scientific studies show that Vitamin C only helps prevent colds for
people living in extreme conditions. Overall, eating whole foods that
contain Vitamin C, such as oranges, is a wiser choice than a Vitamin C
supplement because dietary sources provide a variety of nutrients. The
U.S. Food and Nutrition Board recommends 90 mg of Vitamin C per day for
men and 75 mg per day for women. One cup of strawberries provides a
full daily Vitamin C intake.
-- Minerals help regulate the balance of fluids in your body and are
essential to your health. Studies show that many Americans consume
less than half of the recommended amount of calcium, a mineral
important to bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.
-- Women should take special care to meet calcium needs because, according
to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women are four times more
likely than men to develop the disease. If your diet does not provide
enough calcium, a dietary supplement can help you get back on track.
-- Food sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yogurt. Aim for food
that includes at least a 10 percent daily value (DV) of calcium. This
information can be found on the food label.
-- If your diet contains too many low-nutrient foods, such as sugar-
sweetened sodas and potato chips, consider taking an iron supplement.
People prone to iron deficiency include pregnant women and teenage
-- Low iron intake can limit oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in
fatigue and decreased immune function. A balanced diet that includes
foods such as meats, poultry, fish and beans, should provide enough
iron. If iron levels are not otherwise met, an iron supplement may
help restore your health.
Popular Dietary Supplements
-- Among the most popular natural products in complementary and
alternative medicine is echinacea, an herbal supplement used to boost
the immune system. Studies indicate, however, that echinacea does not
help prevent or treat colds and the flu, as is commonly believed.
-- St. John's wort is also one of the most commonly used herbal
supplements. According to a study by the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, this plant extract has minimal
health benefits in treating major depression. St. John's wort may,
however, help treat milder forms of depression.
-- Omega-3 supplements can help promote overall health. Evidence most
strongly supports fish-oil supplements as a treatment for improvements
in the effects of cardiovascular disease.
-- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help delay age-related
diseases. Because your body's defense against oxidative stress can be
weakened with age, it is important to consume plenty of antioxidants.
-- Common functional foods include tomatoes for prostate health, apples to
neutralize cell-damaging free radicals and whole-grain cereals to
reduce the risk of diabetes.
-- Evidence suggests that the antioxidants in blueberries and grapes may
reduce the risk of cancer and help manage cardiovascular health. The
distinct colors of such fruits can help you identify foods that contain
-- Approximately 90 percent of tea consumed in the United States is black
tea, which, with the proper diet, can help reduce cholesterol levels
and the risk of coronary heart disease. Drinking plenty of green tea
may also help prevent and treat inflammation-related diseases.
The best formula for optimum health is to maintain a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine. While conventional medicine is still best to diagnose and treat diseases, dietary supplements may help restore your health when you cannot receive adequate nutrition or your body requires more nutrients than usual. Before taking dietary supplements, be sure to talk to your physician and educate yourself on the pros and cons of the supplement. If the supplement is safe for you to use, it just may be the answer you're looking for in restoring your health.
HealthSaver, an emerging health care discount program, offers savings on prescriptions, vision care, complementary and alternative health care treatments, vitamins and supplements by mail and more than 1,500 fitness clubs nationwide, including select Bally Total Fitness, World Gym and Ladies Workout Express locations.
HealthSaver offers discounts of 20 percent on vision care, as well as discounts of 10 to 50 percent on prescriptions at participating pharmacies, 20 percent off complementary and alternative health care treatments and fitness club benefits. HealthSaver also offers discounts of 10 to 35 percent on dental care services at some 42,000 participating provider locations nationwide, including routine cleanings, X-rays, fillings, orthodontics, and even popular cosmetic dentistry procedures such as teeth whitening. Members can also save from 5 to 50 percent off vitamins and supplements by mail. Discounts are based upon reasonable and customary costs or manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) and are only available from participating providers. HealthSaver is not an insurance product or service. More information about HealthSaver is available online at http://www.healthsaver.com or toll free by calling 1-800-7HEALTH (1-800-743-2584). A one month trial membership in HealthSaver (http://www.healthsaver.com or 1-800-743-2584) costs $1 and can be canceled anytime during the trial period. Unless the member calls to cancel during the trial, membership will be extended automatically and billed to a credit card number at the $149.99 annual fee. Members may call toll free to cancel at any time and receive a refund of the unused portion of their current year's fee. HealthSaver is offered by Affinion Group, a leader in the membership, insurance and loyalty marketing businesses, providing products and services that touch the lives of millions of Americans.
About Affinion Group, Inc.
As a global leader with nearly 35 years of experience, Affinion Group (http://www.affinion.com) enhances the value of its partners' customer relationships by developing and marketing valuable loyalty, membership, checking account, insurance and other compelling products and services. Leveraging its expertise in product development and targeted marketing, Affinion helps generate significant incremental revenue for more than 5,300 affinity partners worldwide, including many of the largest and most respected companies in financial services, retail, travel, and Internet commerce. Based in Norwalk, Conn., the company has approximately 3,300 employees throughout the United States and in 10 countries across Europe. Affinion holds the prestigious ISO 27001 certification for the highest information security practices, is PCI compliant and Cybertrust certified.
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