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Vitamins – To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

Posted Mar 22 2012 9:59pm

How many do we need? If any at all...

Should you take a vitamin supplement and if so, do you take a multi-vitamin or perhaps just a little extra vitamin C?

Is any one vitamin more important than another?

And aren’t vitamins for the elderly anyway?

Arguments for and against supplements are many; and the decision to take supplements is personal and self-prescribed.  How many of your friends and family have taken a supplement based on another’s recommendation?  Have you tried a new vitamin based on a friend or your mom’s advice?  I have.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements approximately one-third of Americans and 25% of young children take a multivitamin supplement.  That is a big industry — multi-billion dollar industry!

Our bodies need four fat soluble vitamins and nine water soluble vitamins.  We also need a variety of minerals which will be a topic for a future article.  The four fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K and the nine water soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C.  While they each have extensive and important roles in the body, below is an overview of their main role.

Vitamins play many roles in our overall health.

Most people take a vitamin supplement to improve their nutrition status.  For instance, women who have heavy menstrual cycles lose iron during their menstruation and may benefit from taking a supplement.  Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are encouraged to take folate (a B vitamin) supplements to prevent neural tube defects.  Also women who breastfeed have higher nutrient needs and may choose to temporarily supplement.

Rather than self prescribe, consult your doctor before shelling out dollars for an over the counter supplement. states people who do not eat enough food or those who are on special diets such as vegetarian, may be encouraged to take a supplement. Yet, these individuals may only require one specific supplement rather than a whole assortment or multivitamin. Their needs would be based on their diet and on the advice of a registered dietitian.

If you are able, try to eat a balanced and varied diet to obtain your nutrient needs. Whole foods taste better and offer fiber.  As always, ask your doctor about any particular vitamins you are curious about and take his/her suggestions into consideration.  For instance, whenever I travel to remote international places where the variety of foods may be questionable (i.e. tons of starch and little fresh fruit or green veggies) I take along a multivitamin.  This decision is based on a conversation I had with my doctor concerning my specific health needs.

While the decision to take a multivitamin seems easy, every person’s decision is different.  A daily multivitamin isn’t just for the elderly.  Taking one specific vitamin over another is a discussion warranted with your doctor.  All of the vitamins are equally important and are integral to our health.

Do you take a daily vitamin or a multivitamin?

Harvard’s School of Public Health -  The Daily Multivitamin -  Supplements
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine , a National Institutes of Health site
Office of Dietary Supplements – Quick Facts

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