By the Food and Agricultural Organization figures, more than 820 million people in the world were hungry in 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, there were 239 million undernourished people, with a prevalence of 22.8% as measured by the Prevalence Of Undernourishment. In Uganda, 12% of the population is chronically food insecure and is scattered in Karamoja, Teso and Acholi regions due to poor rainfalls in the regions. The solutions to malnourishment have been dietary changes to focus on foods high in energy and nutrients, support for families, treatment of underlying illness and vitamin and mineral supplementation for populations; especially the special group for whom the need is high.
The dietary or nutritional supplements don’t replace food and they are not a substitute for a balanced healthy diet; one that includes vegetables and fruits, whole grains, adequate proteins and healthy fats. Dietary supplements, like multivitamin formulations deliver nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities, or mineral vitamins that are specific for an age group or are meant to handle specific deficiencies or special needs.
Some of the groups that may benefit from supplementation include: People over the age of 50 (Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, folate), Women of child bearing age (Folic acid, Vitamin D and possibly iron), Children under 5 (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D especially for children with low appetites), Breastfeeding individuals (Vitamin D), Vegans (Vitamin B12), People with insufficient sun exposure (Vitamin D).
Dietary or Nutritional supplements are not generally included in food-based guidelines for population and are often reserved for dietitian’s or doctor’s recommendation, for those to whom supplementation is helpful even with access to a balanced diet.
The use for dietary supplementation has risen over the years due to busier schedules that have hampered healthy eating, but there have been risks involved in supplementation.
Supplements may lead to excessive nutrient intake which can at times cause grave health risk; the risk of high vitamin A effects in pregnant women. And so it is advisable that an individual should speak to their doctors to ascertain need for supplementation and also determine the best supplements.
Even though specific groups are advised to take specific supplements, the overall message is that one sticks to a healthy balanced diet, carefully read labels of supplements and fortified foods, and avoid taking multiple doses that exceed the recommended daily Amounts (RDAs). Talk to a medical professional for the best possible options.