Dietary Supplements for Dancers: For and Against

Supplements can come in many forms like bars, powders, gummies and drinks which can contain a variety of vitamins to suit an individual life style. Particular popular supplements are needed for dancers are calcium, which is needed for bone strength and vitamin D for the immune system as well as protecting bone health. Dietary supplements can enhance a dancer’s performance and prevent them from injury but it can also have other effects on their health. There are many debates whether supplements have a true benefit on our health or be a disadvantage.

From the Q&A session after Jasmine Challis' presentation 'Nutrition research should drive advice and practice: which nutrients should the dancer be updated on and why?'. “Absorption varies… not knowing what you are reducing the absorption of by taking in something else”. Challis gives an example of dairy protein shakes and if they aren’t fortified, they won’t have lot of iron in them. Being dependant on the supplements are more likely to decrease the intake of another vitamin unlike a black bean which would contain minerals iron, calcium, magnesium and copper. Supplements should only be taken when absorption isn’t as efficient or present like the winter season when theirs not enough sun to source vitamin D. She understands the gain from the supplements but she suggests the negatives outweigh the positives. This is if the vitamins are actually effectively improving the physical aspects of a dancer.

Scientific evidence has been concluded that supplements have given an advantage in elite ballet dancers. The objective, [Athletes who train indoors during the winter months exhibit low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations due to a lack of sunlight exposure. This has been linked to impaired exercise performance. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of oral vitamin D₃ supplementation on selected physical fitness and injury parameters in elite ballet dancers.]. The experiment concluded “Oral supplementation of vitamin D₃ during the winter months has beneficial effects on muscular performance and injury occurrence in elite ballet dancers.”. Over the 4 controlled months with 24 dancers, the overall effect enhanced the height of a vertical jump and isometric muscle strength. Although many dancers have a healthy balanced diet, a supplement can boost the minerals and vitamins in the body to improve health.

The first reaction from being injured is rest and recover until there is medical advice or if the area has healed. Supplements can also aid the treatment of a sports injury; studies have shown that certain dietary supplements may be beneficial. Dr Peterson mentions “According to one NCBI report, zinc plays a key role in healing, and a deficiency can interfere with recovery.” Whereas introducing zinc containing foods like meat or shellfish into their diet will be beneficial not everyone will change their diets so a supplement could speed up this recovery. Another review investigated “biochemical pathways after a musculoskeletal injury have suggested that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may be a viable supplement to enhance collagen synthesis and soft tissue healing.”. This took into account yielded 286 articles but 10 only made it into the final analysis. Scientific evidence concluded vitamin C has the ‘potential of healing fracted bones’ and no harmful effects were reported from the supplement vitamin C. Although it was a safe supplement, not enough clinical research was put into the study for the controlled variables.

Overall, a balanced diet and rest should take priority over supplements, the majority of supplements (or a multi vitamin) should backup a dancer’s health unless a doctor has advised. They shouldn’t be heavily relied on as a substitute for a diet as they can cause more harm than good. A large part of dancers in their career are free lanced and relying on some supplements can be expensive. Every dancer individually has different dietary needs and if a supplement positively helps the dancer’s health then more scientific research is needed. But it is difficult to find the one specific answer as many different aspects like time and finance can take it away from answering the question as a good balanced diet can be equivalent to a multivitamin.  

07 April 2022
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