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vitamin supplements

What you should know about vitamins and supplements

As a new year begins, most people decide to kick start their health and make some changes to better themselves. The most common plan is by starting a diet. However, another method of boosting your health is by adding vitamins or supplements to your regime. With so many studies and claims about vitamins and supplements being published, many seem to just contradict each other. Here’s what you should know.

Around 40% of Americans take some sort of supplement every day. Dietary supplements generally include vitamins/multivitamins, minerals, botanicals, and herbal products. They are available without a prescription and in various forms such as powder, pills, or liquid. Because most people generally do not eat a well balanced diet daily, it is beneficial to take some sort of supplement, even if just a daily multivitamin. Additionally, some vitamins become especially important at certain times in a person’s life. Pregnant women or women who may become pregnant need to take folate, or folic acid, and B-complex vitamin. And as you age, it is advisable to take a daily supplement to get additional calcium and B12.

There are always two sides to the coin, however. Supplements and vitamins can be good for you, but in some cases, can harm you in ways you would not have anticipated. Maintaining the balance of the vitamins we need is tricky. While vitamins work together in the body to ensure our health, the interaction between vitamin supplements and prescribed medications can cause health problems. For example, calcium can interact with some pharmaceuticals, limiting the body’s ability to absorb the prescribed medication. So whenever your doctor gives you a new prescription or changes one, it’s important to discuss the supplements you’re taking to avoid any potential problems. Some people also take large amounts of supplements as therapy, more than what is recommended. Using them in this manner is not advisable without supervision, as side effects and complications can and do occur. As an example, niacin or B3 in very high doses can harm the liver.

It is proven we are capable of getting the nutrients we need naturally from the foods we eat. As such, we should not become dependent on taking them in order to obtain everything we need. The bottom line is, it is advisable to take vitamins to aid in certain deficiencies or legitimate needs as your doctor will prescribe you to do so. Based on these factors, you must decide if you should take them, and more specifically – which ones. Some points to take into consideration are noted below.

Reasons to not take vitamins:

  • According to Dr. Joann Manson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, “supplements are never a substitute for a balanced, healthful diet, and they can be a distraction from healthy lifestyle practices that confer much more benefits.” With a variety of food, we can get all the nutrients we need.
  • A study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reveals that the most commonly used supplements- Vitamin C, Vitamin D, multivitamins, Calcium failed to protect against cardiovascular diseases.
  • The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as drugs. In some cases, they might have adverse interactions with medications. This alone is a significant reason not to be inclined to take vitamins and supplements without discussing it with your doctor.
  • There are small risks that consuming large amounts of some of these micronutrients through supplements may be quite harmful. Very high doses of B6 above the recommended amount can damage nerves, causing numbness and muscle weakness.

Reasons to take vitamins:

  • Dietary supplements, in some cases, prove to be of great importance. For example, it can help patients with celiac or Crohn’s disease, which makes it difficult to absorb certain nutrients.
  • Vegans or vegetarians might find it hard to get the required nutrients properly. For instance, Vitamin B12 mostly comes from fish, meat, dairy products. Hence, they may consider taking supplements.
  • Pregnant women and elderly people require additional vitamins as their bodies are undergoing numerous changes.

As we’ve determined, vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients because they perform hundreds of roles in the body. But there are a myriad of pros and cons to consider when deciding what supplements to take. Hence, it should be taken into account, the fine line between getting enough of these nutrients (which is healthy) and getting too much (which can end up harming you). Eating a healthy diet remains the best way to supply sufficient amounts of the vitamins and minerals you need.