Who Needs Vitamin Supplements?

02/21/2013

Recently, I was walking along the aisle of a supermarket and noticed a whole section filled with vitamins, minerals and other supplements. It was kind of like a vitamin amusement park with lots of cool names, colors, labels and promises. Some stated their ingredients were directly from fruits and vegetables and could boost your energy, keep you alive with health, build strong bones, decrease the risk for colds and even wake up your tired body. So, is this true?

Well, it is true our bodies need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals. But, did Mom Nature intend for all of us to depend on pills to meet these needs? The answer for most people who eat a well-balanced diet is no! Vitamins and minerals are best obtained from the foods we eat and the liquids we drink. There are lots of healthy choices such as salmon, broccoli, almonds, Swiss chard, lentils and beans. Each one of these foods delivers a powerful blend of important vitamins and minerals (and they certainly taste much better than a vitamin pill).

The key is to include variety in the foods you eat; starting with different colors of fruits and vegetables to provide a variety of vital nutrients to keep your body healthy and strong.

WHO NEEDS A VITAMIN SUPPLEMENT?

  • Depending upon a person’s age (infants, teenagers, adults, and seniors), diet and state of health, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals can occur. Your physician can help in the diagnosis and selection of the needed supplement.
  • Targeted groups (those who may be lacking vitamins and minerals in their diet) include:
  • Infants and those in their toddler years
  • Kids who are finicky eaters (one of my patients seems to only like green and yellow foods such as broccoli and macaroni and cheese)
  • Kids and adults on a specific type of food choice menu, such as vegetarian or vegan diet, milk-free diet, others
  • Those on a restricted calorie diet (after a gastric bypass, weight loss plan, etc.)
  • Anyone who drink lots of carbonated soda (these may replace healthier options containing vitamin and minerals)
  • People with certain medical conditions (cancer, digestive disorders, kidney disease, others)
  • Poor diet, such as frequent fast food and/or processed meals (hamburger and fries, chicken nuggets and fries, pizza slices, etc.)
  • Those who are heavy and/or frequent drinkers of alcohol
  • Very active teenagers and adults with specific energy and muscle strength requirements (may be best to meet with a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist)
  • Anyone who experiences difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Those who cannot cook for themselves or afford healthy food
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • Adults over age 50 may require extra B-12 (needed by the nervous system and brain, important in the production of red blood cells) because they may not produce enough stomach acid (especially if on certain medications that block stomach acid) to absorb B-12 from foods such as fish, poultry meat and fortified cereals
  • Our “age gifted” senior citizens, especially if poor ability to taste and smell

VITAMINS CAN ACT LIKE MEDICATIONS

Many people don’t realize that too much of a good ingredient has the potential to turn into a health risk. For example, say you are taking a multivitamin with 100% of the daily requirement of iron. But, that vitamin was designed for a woman who is pregnant with higher iron needs. The result, especially if you are a non-pregnant woman, man or woman over 51, could be iron overload and symptoms such as constipation, nausea and vomiting. This example is just one of many as any vitamin and mineral taken in too high a dose has the potential to become a health risk.

Lastly, if choosing a vitamin, avoid mega doses. Unless prescribed by your physician, only choose vitamins that provide 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of the recommended daily total. Amounts greater than that do not take into account the other foods you eat in combination with their own healthy ingredients. Foods like cereals and milk or juice are often supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals and can make up for a large portion of your daily value.

For further information to safely navigate through the vitamin and mineral maize, speak with your physician or a registered dietitian.

 


Dr. Rob believes in preventative and integrative approaches to medicine. He specializes in family medicine as well as children's health and wellness.
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