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Dietary supplements are preparations intended to provide nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids) that in today's lifestyle are likely missing in a person's diet.

Nutrients are chemicals compounds we need for life and growth. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are used as energy.

Organic nutrients (nutrients that come from plants or animals) include carbohydrates, fats, proteins (or their building blocks, amino acids) and vitamins.

There are 6 "essential" nutrients (nutrients not produced by our bodies): water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are organic compounds required in tiny amounts by our bodies but that we either don't make or don't get enough from our diet. There are 13 compounds that are recognized as vitamins.

Some vitamins have hormone-like functions as regulators of mineral metabolism (like vitamin D). Some act as regulators of cell and tissue growth and differentiation (including some forms of vitamin A). Others act as antioxidants (vitamin E and sometimes vitamin C). The largest number of vitamins (the B complex vitamins) help enzymes in their work as catalysts in metabolism.

Up until the mid-1930s, when the first commercial yeast-extract and semi-synthetic vitamin C supplement tablets were sold, vitamins were only available through our food consumption.

Vitamins have been produced as commodity chemicals and made widely available as dietary supplements, since the mid-1950's. The term vitamin was derived from "vitamine," a combination word made up by Polish scientist Casimir Funk from vital and amine (“of life”).

Dietary minerals (also known as mineral nutrients) are the chemical elements required by living organisms, other than the four elements (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen) that are plentiful in foods made from plants and animals. Mineral elements include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and iodine.

Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components: soluble fiber that ferments in the colon into gases and healthful compounds and insoluble fiber that absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract easing bowel movements.

Fatty acids are important sources of fuel. Many cell types can use either glucose or fatty acids. Heart and skeletal muscle prefer fatty acids. The brain cannot use fatty acids as a source of fuel.

Amino acids serve as the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids can be linked together in varying sequences to form a vast variety of proteins. Nine standard amino acids are called “essential” because our bodies can't make them.

So how big is the blossoming industry?? In 2010, Americans spent $28 billion on products that they believed would improve their dietary intake. If there are 300 million of us, then every man, woman and child spent $93 dollars on vitamins, minerals, fiber products and herbal products in 2010!

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