VITAMINS & MINERALS
(Nutritional Supplements, Supplements, Multivitamin)
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 magnesium.
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 taken together.
- 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 cars.
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to serious health problems, as shown below: Not enough of this..could lead to this:
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A)
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
Scurvy, poor appetite, digestion problems, bruising, slower healing of cuts
Lack of coordination (in extreme cases)
Numbness and muscle aches in extreme cases
Increased risk of specific birth defect (neural tube defect), elevated homocysteine levels
Irregular 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)
Constipation, diarrhea, depression
Gas, bloating, upset stomach, poor appetite, bad taste in the mouth
Low blood pressure, diarrhea, upset stomach (nausea), vomiting
(5 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.