Ask the Expert: Does everyone need to take supplements?

Prof Helen Roche explains why we need certain nutrients and how resistance exercises can benefit your health

Ask the Expert: Does everyone need to take supplements?

Picture by: EMPICS Sport / EMPICS Sport

Ever wondered why we need carbohydrates or what the best source of protein is, and do we really need supplements?

Dr Helen Roche, Associate Professor of Nutrigenomics at UCD, answered some of these burning questions about nutrition earlier today on the Pat Kenny Show.

Why is protein important?

Skimmed milk is the best source protein for those looking to build up muscle according to Dr Roche and if you are looking to reduce your sugar intake, steer clear of flavoured milk products.

"Chocolate milk is very high in sugar and I would not be pushing it with my kids. As a treat it's fine, but not certainly not every day."

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Do we need Carbs?

Although a high protein diet is becoming increasingly more popular, Dr Roche said that carbohydrates are just as important for the body in order to fuel the brain.

"I wouldn't necessarily be an advocate of a low-carb diet. You need carbohydrates and glucose, which is the sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and your kidneys. 

"A lot people are trying to burn fat and they think that reducing their carbohydrates is a way to do it but if you want to lose weight, you just have to reduce your energy intake."

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Resistance Exercise

This is one of the most important types of exercise for older people according to Dr Roche.

"Resistance exercise is essentially working against a mechanical or physical force i.e. using some weights. You don't even have to go to the gym, you can use bottles of water or milk."

"Essentially, it's trying to build up your muscles and prevent them from getting weaker, which is a natural part of aging.

She stressed the importance of this exercise in addition to adequate protein intake, in particular, whey protein.

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There is still some debate among the scientific community about whether or not supplements are necessary for optimal heath, however, Dr Roche explained that there are certain stages in your life when supplements can be beneficial.

"Not everyone needs a supplement but there are certain stage of your life, such as toddlers who need extra iron and pregnant women who need more folic acid. It depends on the stage of life that you're at."

When trying to build up muscle, the best time to take in protein according to Dr Roche is as soon as possible after exercise.

"It's a huge amount to do with the timing. In the 2 hours following exercise, your body goes into a recovery phase as the muscles have been stretched.

She also said that protein supplements, which are becoming increasingly more popular, are not necessarily any better than the protein found in food products.

"It.s no different to your skimmed milk which is down the dairy isle. You could also get it from chicken, from meat, from fish... there are lots of good protein sources." 


Dr Roche said reducing your intake of fatty oils is essential to leading a healthy lifestyle.

"The most important thing is not to use too much. So deep fat frying is not the best option. You them can bake potatoes or wedges and coat in oil instead. Try to avoid deep fat frying."

However, one type of oil she said we can actually increase our intake of are fish oils; in particular anyone who suffers from arthritis.

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