According to the most recent research and evidence based medicine on vitamin and mineral supplementation, it is best to get vitamins and minerals from your diet. The main reason for this is by getting vitamins and minerals naturally from food, the biological availability and absorption is the best. Basically, just eat a healthy balanced diet. Minimizing processed food which has few vitamins and nutrients is ideal. If you are healthy, young and eat a well-balanced diet, you likely don’t need any extra vitamins or mineral supplementation.
Are there people that do need supplementation? The answer to that is yes! Below is a list of groups that will benefit from supplementation. However, for most average young healthy adults- healthy diet will suffice.
- Pregnant Women: Women who are pregnant should take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid and DHA. Adequate folic acid levels will decrease the incidence of neural tube defects and DHA has been shown to be helpful in building the baby’s brain, nervous system and eyes. Iron can also be helpful to prevent anemia.
- Infants that are breastfed: Exclusively breastfed infants need iron supplementation starting at 4-6 months and vitamin D.
- Certain older adults and especially post-menopausal women may benefit from calcium and vitamin d supplementation to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
- Patients that have medical conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption and metabolism because of medical conditions or medication use should listen to their physicians if encouraged to take certain supplementation.
- Women who haven’t gone through menopause and have heavy periods may benefit from additional iron supplementation.
Be very careful of supplements. Some supplements contain ten times the recommended daily dosage of a certain vitamin such as vitamin E and beta carotene. Why would anyone need to take such a high dose? In fact, sometimes such high doses of vitamins can be harmful. For instance, excess Vitamin A intake (a fat soluble vitamin) can predispose to birth defects for babies in utero. For those taking too much Vitamin E (another fat soluble vitamin), they were 10% more likely to die during one study than their counterparts who weren’t supplementing. Alternatively, for water soluble vitamins, any additional intake beyond that needed by the body is simply excreted in urine. Unless instructed by a physician, I would be very wary of marketing by supplement companies that recommend such high doses. Based on the pharmacy aisles that are dedicated to vitamins and supplements, most people would be surprised to hear this. However, for the average young healthy adult, all you need is to eat a healthy well-balanced diet!