Once you realize that many of your patients will benefit from dietary supplementation, the next step is to make sure that your patients get supplements that actually benefit them. It's not my intent to make this article a seminar on nutritional supplements, but there are several pertinent facts that should be emphasized so that you and your patients get the maximum results of any supplements that you recommend. If your patient’s don’t see results from your recommendations then they will lose confidence in your abilities and you will lose confidence in dietary supplements, even though your patient’s would benefit from them.The controversy over the advantages of natural supplements vs. synthetic supplements has been raging since chemists first discovered the chemical structure of organic compounds and began synthesizing them in the lab. The chemists were able to synthesize vitamins, enzymes, and hormones with chemical formulas identical to those found in nature. They were able to manufacture these substances at a significantly lower cost than it took to isolate them from natural sources. The assumption was, and is, that these synthetic supplements are just as effective as natural supplements, because they are chemically identical.
When you discuss improving your patient’s health through dietary changes there are a couple of things that you should consider. The most important one is the difference between dietary information and nutritional information. To most patients and far too many healthcare providers the terms are synonymous. While there is some overlap of the two terms, they do not have the same meaning.
Strictly speaking, dietary information and dieticians refer to and are concerned with macro-nutrients: calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and perhaps hydration. Dietary counseling refers to counting calories, balancing carbohydrates with proteins and fats, and determining the best way to achieve these goals through food choices. The four basic food groups, the food pyramid, and now the nutrition plate have all been attempts to ensure that Americans get the proper amounts of macro-nutrients, as defined by the best understanding of nutrition at the time.