Work on Your Wellness: Vitamins and Supplements
A balanced diet is a key element of a healthy lifestyle. Wholesome nutrition consists of meals with adequate amounts of fresh whole foods from each food group, including multiple servings of vegetables and fruit, eaten at regular intervals. This is the best way of getting all the essential nutrients. Supplements are not an alternative to a natural nutrient-rich diet.
Certain vitamins and minerals are necessary for normal metabolic function. These essential nutrients enable cell regeneration, tissue repair, and normal functioning of the body. Usually, healthy individuals can get all the nutrients they need from three balanced meals a day. Not everyone, however, eats adequate amounts of nutritious foods every day.
People who don’t get the minimum amount of required vitamins and minerals may develop deficiencies. In such cases, an appropriate supplement may be prescribed. Also, nutritional needs differ according to age, health condition, gender, and pregnancy status.
Who Needs Vitamins and Supplements
At the outset, it’s worth noting that not everyone requires supplements. Some vitamin and mineral supplements may even be harmful, depending on the age, gender, diet, and medical condition of the person concerned.
Specific supplements can be very helpful, however, with regard to certain nutritional deficiencies and medical conditions. For safety and efficacy, it’s advisable to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendation. Also, never exceed the recommended dosage.
If you are on a low-calorie diet, then you might want to ask a physician whether you need a vitamin or mineral supplement. Specific vitamins or minerals may be prescribed if deficiencies arise due to an unhealthy diet, lifestyle, or an underlying health condition.
For example, anemic individuals may benefit from taking an iron supplement if they’re unable to absorb enough iron from their diet. Similarly, vitamin B12 or cobalamin may be necessary for those who don’t get it from food. In such cases, a good quality supplement from a reputable company taken in the recommended dosage can help reverse deficiencies.
Elderly people may need a supplement because age affects absorption of nutrients. Pregnant women need higher levels of folate and iron. Adequate levels of folate are required for healthy brain development in the fetus.
Post-menopausal women usually need more calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Vegetarians and vegans may need a B12 supplement because this vitamin occurs mostly in animal foods. Supplements may also be prescribed after certain types of surgery or for people with specific health conditions.
Benefits of Vitamins and Supplements
Over the last few decades, many studies have been undertaken to explore the link, if any, between multivitamin use and reduced risk of serious diseases as well as brain function. The results are mixed. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that vitamins and minerals reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, or maintain brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a Johns Hopkins Medicine report, 50 percent of American adults take a vitamin or mineral supplement daily. John Hopkins researchers analysed the results of a number of recent studies and concluded that multivitamin use did not lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, or cognitive degeneration.
Larry Appel, director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, maintains that pills are not a quick and easy solution to good health nor do they prevent chronic diseases. On the other hand, there are studies that demonstrate a link between health benefits and keeping to a balanced diet, consuming less saturated fats, sugar, sodium, and trans fat, and controlling one’s weight.
Medical Advice Is Key
Consult your physician before taking any supplements or herbs. A qualified healthcare provider can advise you as to whether you need them at all. If a need exists, than a qualified healthcare provider recommend the correct dosage.
While the internet is a fabulous resource of information on just about any topic, there’s a lot of misinformation as well. There are some reliable online resources on multivitamin and other mineral and vitamin supplements, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, The American Botanical Council, National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s advisable to do your own research about the resources you intend consulting.
Proceed with Caution
It’s important to keep in mind that supplements aren’t necessarily safe. And just because something is labeled “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Some herbs can produce adverse reactions. One needs to be careful when taking multivitamins and other supplements.
In addition to consulting your doctor, do your own research to find out about any vitamins or minerals you’re thinking of taking. Here is some general information about supplements that may be helpful:
Dosage is a very important factor to consider when taking vitamins and minerals. Overdosing can be harmful, particularly in the case of fat-soluble vitamins. This is because they’re not easily excreted like water-soluble vitamins. Excess can accumulate in the liver. Excess water-soluble vitamins are flushed out in urine and sweat.
Adverse reactions are also important to investigate. Some vitamins and minerals may react with certain medications. For example, some studies have indicated that Vitamin K can make blood thinning medication less effective. Some researchers believe Vitamin A and Beta carotene can increase lung cancer risk in those who smoke.
Gingko can cause blood thinning. Comfrey and kava may have adverse effects on the liver. St. John’s Wort might interfere with the efficacy of birth control or antidepressant medication. This is why it’s prudent to consult your doctor about what vitamins or minerals would be safe and effective for you.
Regulatory controls also matter. In general, dietary supplements are not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s possible that the level of vitamins and minerals in some multivitamins don’t correspond to the amount stated on the label. Some could contain more or less. Also, some supplements may contain substances that are not mentioned on the label.
Incorrect manufacturing procedures are another factor to consider. Flawed processes can result in the presence of much higher levels of nutrients than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).
Not all supplements contain nutrients derived from natural foods, some contain synthetically produced vitamins or minerals. For all these reasons, it’s best to opt for a supplement from a well-known and trusted company if you need one.
Though some vitamin or mineral supplements can be very helpful for some people in certain cases, dietary supplements are unnecessary for normally healthy individuals who get a balanced diet and enough exercise. No supplement can take the place of a wholesome natural diet.