Vitamin and Mineral Supplements FAQ
The American Dietetic Association provides the following information on vitamin and mineral supplements.
Can food supply provide all of the nutrients necessary for good health?
Food is the ideal source of nutrients. The quality and variety of food in the U.S. allows nearly everyone to obtain an adequate and nutritious diet. Our food supply provides a unique balance which cannot be duplicated by a combination of vitamin and mineral supplements.
Do I need to take vitamin and mineral supplements?
Most healthy people don't need vitamin or mineral supplements. Taking more nutrients than your body needs won't provide added energy, more brain power, or protection against disease.
However, individuals with special needs may benefit from supplementation, and should check with your physician or registered dietitian for guidance:
- Women with excessive menstrual bleeding may need to take iron supplements.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more of many nutrients, especially iron, folic acid, calcium and sources of energy. Individual recommendations regardig supplements and dietss should come from physicians and registered dietitians.
- People with very low calorie intakes frequently consume diets that do not meet their needs for all nutrients.
- Some vegetarians may not be receiving adequate calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12.
Do vitamin and mineral supplements prevent disease?
It is true that vitamins and minerals will prevent classical nutritional deficiencies such as scurvy, beriberi, pellagra and rickets. However, these diseases are rare in the U.S. and can be prevented by appropriate food choices.
The more common diseases in our society, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure are affected by many factors, including heredity, exercise and lifestyle pattern, as well as diet. If you eat an adequate, balanced diet in moderate portions, taking supplements won't give you any added protection.
Do people under emotional stress need "stress" vitamins?
Emotional stress does not increase nutrient needs.
Are vitamin and mineral supplements potentially dangerous?
Large doses of either single nutrient supplements or high potency vitamin/mineral combinations may be harmful. Consumed in excessive amounts, some supplements may produce undesirable effects such as fatigue, diarrhea and hair loss. Others may cause more serious side effects, such as kidney stones, liver or neurological damage, birth defects, or even death.
While it has long been known that fat-soluble vitamins A and D are harmful in very high doses, water-soluble vitamins have commonly thought to be harmless. Some studies show this not to be true. For example, the water-soluble vitamin B-6, often suggested for the relief of premenstrual tension, has been found to cause irreversible nerve damage at high doses.
Medically diagnosed conditions that require high potency doses of any supplements should be monitored by a physician.
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