VITAMINS & MINERALS
What are some guidelines for taking supplements?
Before supplementing the diet with
any vitamins or minerals, people are encouraged to speak with their physician. Some people should not take certain supplements
if they have been diagnosed with other conditions. For example, people with kidney problems are often advised against taking
The patient's physician may recommend a multivitamin instead of a supplement that only contains one vitamin
or mineral. The use of a multivitamin is consistent with some of the conclusions already reviewed in this article:
- Vitamins C and E are more effective when taken together.
- Taking selenium increases the heart-healthy effects of vitamin E.
- Vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are most beneficial when
- Calcium and magnesium work better when taken together.
Although a multivitamin may be helpful, it is important to remember
that no supplement will replace the value of a healthy diet. Most major medical establishments recommend that healthy adults
get their vitamins and minerals from food rather than relying solely on supplements.
Food is rich in phytochemicals
and other helpful substances that are not present in supplements. However, many researchers argue that a healthy diet is not
enough, and that the average person is significantly deficient in essential nutrients unless supplements are taken. They also
recognize that people who spend the winter in northern climates have trouble getting enough vitamins from fresh fruits and
vegetables that were grown
thousands of miles away and were allowed to ripen "off the vine" in either trucks or railroad
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to serious health problems, as shown below:
Not enough of this..could lead to this.
Eye damage (e.g., lack of night vision), dry skin
Low red blood
cell count (anemia), low white blood cell count, poor appetite, trouble concentrating, reduced strength, hair loss,
elevated homocysteine levels
Pernicious anemia, muscle weakness, confusion
(especially in the elderly), tingling in the hands/feet, elevated homocysteine levels
poor appetite, digestion problems, bruising, slower healing of cuts
coordination (in extreme cases)
Numbness and muscle aches in extreme cases
Increased risk of specific birth defect (neural tube defect), elevated homocysteine levels
heart rhythms (arrhythmias), seizures, dizziness, weakness
Impaired thyroid function,
impaired cardiac function, enlarged heart
People are encouraged to be very careful about the amount of vitamins and
minerals that they take as a supplement. In the United States, supplements may be sold in concentrations far greater than
that recommended by a physician.
For example, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B-6 is 2 milligrams,
and serious neurological damage has resulted from taking more than 50 milligrams per day. However, some bottles
of vitamin B-6 are sold in amounts of 200 or 250 milligrams per tablet.
Those who intend to take a supplement are advised
to take only the recommended dose, or the dose prescribed by one's physician, because health risks can arise when
there is too much of any given vitamin or mineral in the body. Too much of this.
.could lead to this.
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A)
Liver damage, yellowing of the skin (may also increase
risk of lung cancer in smokers), birth defects
No toxic effects reported)
Diarrhea, upset stomach (nausea)
Headaches and elevated blood pressure (other dangers if the person is taking a blood thinner)
Gas, bloating, upset stomach, poor appetite, bad taste in
Low blood pressure, diarrhea, upset stomach (nausea), vomiting
times the recommended amount) Death
Although further research is necessary, there appear to be significant
risks associated with either too much or too little of any given vitamin or mineral.
People are encouraged to speak with their physician to find out what
supplements, if any, would be the most beneficial for them.