An Economic Argument for Dietary Supplements

economic argument for dietary supplement

The ideal recommended diet is one consisting of a lot of fruits, vegetables and diverse meats to consist of a balanced nutritional intake. However, as it is no surprise, our actual diet is a far cry from that. Most people heavily rely on fast food and pre-processed food. These foods are made of only very few ingredients, mainly wheat, potatoes and one or two kinds of meat. It is quite contrary to a balanced diet. The result of this trend is quite apparent in the obesity rate among the population. Dietary supplements such as low priced grape seed extract are often touted as a solution to the lack of micronutrients in our diet.

Food items are commonly processed to improve their shelf life or simply cooking and serving in a fast food scenario. This causes the pre-processed foods and fast foods lose out a significant quantity of even whatever nutrients the few ingredients have. While they have abundant carbohydrates, sugars and oils, many of the micronutrients are severely lacking.

 

Why does anyone eat lower quality of food?

Most people are aware of what they should be eating, but not everyone willingly opts for food that is lower in its nutritional quality.

Convenience
For a lot of well to do people, it often comes down to convenience. In order to prepare a wholesome meal with proper nutrition, the ideal way is to buy all the raw ingredients fresh and cook the meals at home yourself. However, this comes at a significant expense of time. Busy work schedules and lack of energy and enthusiasm after coming back to home are some of the major reasons for choosing lower quality food.

Cost
Another important factor, particularly among low-income families, is the cost of a wholesome diet. According to a study by a nutritional epidemiology team at the University of Leeds in the UK, a healthier diet consisting of all the essential nutrients is significantly more expensive, at almost twice the cost, as compared to a less healthy diet (http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/07/22/jech-2014-204039, http://blogs.plos.org/publichealth/2014/08/04/diet-cost/). The study categorised the diets into various categories and compared the costs among them.

The ‘Monotonous low quality omnivore diet’ (i.e. containing a few ingredients, both animal and plant-based foods included) had an estimated daily expense of $5.56 per day, whereas the ‘Health conscious’ diet had an estimated daily expense of $11.21. This is a pretty significant amount and adds up to more than $2000 when calculated over a year, per person. Considering a nuclear family of 4, the cost difference would amount to about $8000, which is a massive amount for any low income family. This creates an unfortunate situation that those who are most financially vulnerable and have the most need to be healthy in order to keep earning money are also the ones who are most driven to make poor dietary choices due to massive cost differences.

How can dietary supplements help?

Before we begin this discussion, it is necessary to state that supplements are not a substitute to a healthy and balanced diet; one must continue making significant efforts to switch to a healthy diet and supplements must not be used as an excuse to skip the vegetables. This is often corroborated by both the FDA and the NHS. With that out of the way, let us consider the cost of manufacturing dietary supplements. Please note that we are not discussing any over-market and marked up fancy brand supplements. We are considering the generic supplements which are available from many manufacturers. Some of them are even made from by-products of other processes. An excellent example of such a supplement is organic grape seed extract. It is derived from grape seeds, which are not used in red wine brewing process, thus making raw material cheaply available to all manufacturers. Grape seed extract price is around $25-30 for a month’s supply. Organic grape seed extract price is also at a reasonable level as well. This is extremely rich in multiple compounds that act as potent antioxidants and vitamin E. So if one is not getting enough antioxidants and vitamin E from vegetables, adding grape seed extract to the diet is a cost-effective option. Even if you consider chemically synthesised supplements made available by pharmaceuticals, generic multivitamin pills are quite cost-effective.

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