Despite the hype, most people do not need vitamin supplements

A vitamin supplement "releasing its contents" – fruits and vegetables. 

Just because you hear or read that a certain vitamin or supplement product will solve problems, especially those that traditional medicine can’t solve, it might not be true.

In truth, most of the heavily promoted vitamin supplements have not been proven to make any difference. I’d love to name a few, but it’s not very professional, so I won’t!

The truth is that some vitamin supplements are important in some circumstances, but most are not necessary for most people.

vitamins

Multicolored, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

Vitamins are defined as substances needed in small amounts for the healthy function of the body. They are necessary since the human body either cannot make them or can’t do so in sufficient quantities. For most people, a healthy, varied diet that includes many brightly colored foods such as fruits and vegetables will have all the vitamins required.

There are exceptions, however.

For example, iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world. In this country, it is often women of childbearing age who have low iron stores. That’s often because of blood loss that happens during menstrual periods, and it can be challenging to consume adequate iron.

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Different calcium-rich foods, including cheese, milk, almonds, oranges, and broccoli.

Another example is calcium in the diets of children and young adults. Again, this is often because of low intake of calcium rich foods. A vegan diet, in which no foods of animal origin are consumed, can be low in Vitamin B12 and calcium. This is because B12 is found only in foods of animal origin and many calcium rich foods in our diets are dairy products. There are ways to get B12 and calcium with a vegan diet, but one must plan to consume certain foods or take a vitamin supplement.

Aging affects the body’s ability to produce and absorb certain vitamins.

The most important source of Vitamin D for many people is sunlight on the skin, which causes the body to produce this nutrient. As people age, the skin thins, and the part of skin that has this function is diminished. Vitamin B12 is absorbed from the stomach by specialized cells that also produce stomach acid. As we age, these cells stop functioning as well, producing less acid and a lessened ability to absorb B12.

When we pass age 60 or so, it’s a good idea to have your blood levels of these Vitamins checked by a healthcare provider.

fruits and vegetables

An array of multi-colored fruits and vegetables.

People ask me if vitamins will give you more energy or better ability to concentrate. Manufacturers would like you to believe that B Vitamins (a group of several B Vitamins) will improve energy.

However, this is true only if you have an actual deficiency of these vitamins and this is extremely rare in the US and other developed countries. Such deficiencies occur only when one’s diet is very restricted, or in alcoholism or illnesses that cause malabsorption of nutrients from the intestine.

So, how do you know if you need supplements?

Talk with your healthcare provider, and/or have a consultation with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in making these assessments.


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Ellen R. Glovsky.

Ellen Glovsky is a Key Biscayne resident, published author and Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach.  Her work focuses on helping people explore and enhance their relationship with food, using a “Health At Every Size” approach. She is also involved in the island community with her work on KBCF’s Women’s Giving Circle. To learn more, visit nutrition-coach.com

To read Ellen Glovksy's last Taste of KB, click here.

To read the last Taste of Key Biscayne feature, click here.

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