Foreigners in Shanghai debate the merits of health supplements

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/29 17:58:39

Take your vitamins!

Health supplements usually help people gain necessary nutrients to improve functions of the human body in a safe way. However, as most supplements do not take immediate effect, some people argue that they do not offer many benefits. Instead of using such supplements, people can simply absorb the elements from natural foods.

The Global Times recently interviewed several foreigners in Shanghai about their attitudes toward health supplements. Can Halli, an athlete and a coach from Turkey, said that he only takes some health supplements such as vitamins to help him sleep.

He thinks that health supplements, to some extent, are good, but they have some side effects which the average consumer may not know about. "They make your kidneys work really hard. They make your liver work really hard," he said.

Nicola Fouché from South Africa does not take health supplements, but she agrees that they are good for people who have health problems and need certain nutrients. "But for normal people who are in fine health, they just need to eat healthy," she said.

Mexican national Arantxa Mendoza said she takes supplements for short periods of time instead of long-term. "I think that some of them are useful and good for health, but other ones not," she said, Irene from Costa Rica takes vitamins three or four times a week because she does not eat meat, but she believes health supplements are helpful only when people use them in a proper way.

"A lot of people just walk to the store and buy supplements because they think they need it, but maybe they don't," she said, "Like, a lot of people worry that they're not getting enough protein, but they probably are."

Charlotte from the US also takes vitamins. She said that in the United States it is customary for pregnant women to take supplements. She thinks that, considering people in different countries have different eating habits, it all depends.

American Daniel said that he takes a couple of supplements, but only very natural ones. "I try to get it mostly from the food I eat, or natural essential oils that are good for my health."

He told the Global times that his brothers go to the gym and take a lot of health supplements to give them more muscle mass. "I think if you want to have a good lifestyle, pills are good for that. But if you're lazy, if you don't do anything, that's a bad idea," he added.

Health supplements on sale at a supermarket in Shanghai Photos: Chen Xia/GT

Vitamins as gifts?

Canadian Christina Zozulya said that, in Canada, many people use health supplements. But as an athlete herself, she never takes health supplements, believing it is not necessary to do so at all. "I think you can find natural food and fruit and natural proteins, which is why I don't take supplements," she explained.

It is popular in China for adult children to buy health supplements for their elderly parents, to help them keep healthy. It is also common here to give health supplements as a gift during festivals. When asked whether they buy supplements for their parents or friends as gift, most of our foreign interviewees said they do not.

Fouché said that it is popular to buy health supplements, especially vitamins, in her country, but people usually buy their own health supplements and don't buy them as gifts for others.

"Where I am from, we don't really live with our parents. Whereas in China it's very common to look after your parents when they get old, which I think is really nice. But back home [in South Africa], maybe some people do so, but not like here," she said.

Charlotte said some of her Chinese friends buy supplements for their parents in the US and send them back home.

"I know some people want health supplements from the US and they come here for that. They look for a certain kind of quality or brand, and I thought that would make a good gift," Daniel said.

He said he does not buy supplements for friends or family, as it implies that they are not healthy. Irene said she never buy supplements for her parents or friends as gifts and it is not a common gift in Mexico, unless people ask in advance if others need anything.

Mendoza also prefers to give another kind of gift instead of supplements. Zozulya found it is popular in Canada to buy supplements for one's parents, but she personally does not buy them for her family. "My dad, he's a pharmacist, but he doesn't advise me [to take supplements], so I don't advise it for him.

Irene from Costa Rica


Arantxa Mendoza from Mexico


Charlotte (right) and Daniel (second from right)

Supplemental tips

Our interviewees also shared some supplemental tips about taking health supplements. Daniel advised people to keep a proper balance when taking supplements, which means they need to eat healthy and work out properly at the same time. "The supplements have the best effect when you live a healthy life too."

Irene believes people should ask a nutritionist or a doctor before they buy a supplement, because it could be dangerous, even taking too much vitamin C. Mendoza thinks that supplements claiming to help people lose weight are not useful. "To lose weight, you have to do some sports and eat healthy instead of using supplements," she said.

Fouché believes that if people eat a balanced and healthy meal with proper meat and vegetables, then it is not necessary to take health supplements. She follows advice from her stepfather. "If you listen to him, he says that vitamins are a really big cheat because your body can't absorb so much vitamins, so it just ejects it. He always says if you just eat some fruit, that's more than enough," Fouché added.

Halli does not recommend normal people take health supplements. According to Halli, some supplements are used by professionals to increase their performance by 5 percent.

"They are professional guys. They are working really hard, and that extra 5 percent makes a lot of difference in the professional world. But for people like us, that 5 percent is not worth making your liver, stomach and kidney work really hard," he said.

He thinks a lot of people eat supplements hoping to keep healthy and have a good figure, but it is a misunderstanding. He suggested that people need to eat well, sleep well and exercise well.

"What I say is that in nature, in our daily life, all these supplements exist. If you go to a supermarket, you can get fruits and vegetables, which are the same thing [as supplements]," Halli said. He also suggested that, if people do want to take supplements, they need to read about it before they take it.

Global Times

Christina Zozulya from Canada


Nicola Fouché from South Africa


Can Halli from Turkey



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