Vitamins: Vital for Optimal Health
Vitamins are essential to maintain a healthy and efficient body and mind.
But since the body can’t produce it, of course, with a few exceptions, they need to be taken from food.
With a varied diet, which includes five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, the recommended daily intake of vitamins is sustainable.
Thus, additional vitamins in the form of dietary supplements are not necessary.
Unless, of course when there is a deficiency or a need.
For instance, pregnant and lactating women need to increase their vitamin intake for the development of their unborn child.
While the elderly who suffer from certain illnesses may be advised by their doctor to take vitamins specific to their needs.
Understanding Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement a normal diet. They come in capsule, tablet, powder or liquid forms.
They contain vitamins and/or minerals, found in normal everyday foods, but are concentrated and in high doses.
A dietary supplement may contain herbal substances like St. John’s wort, garlic, and fish oil.
Dietary supplements are available almost everywhere, in pharmacies, drugstores and online stores.
They may contain, for example, the following substances:
- Vitamins and pro-vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, beta carotene
- Minerals and trace elements like calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc
- Vitamin-like substances like co-enzyme Q10
- Fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Protein components such as L-cysteine and L-carnitine
- Carbohydrates like the fiber Oligofructose
- Other ingredients such as brewer’s yeast, algae, probiotic cultures
Some supplements are used as an alternative for other medical treatments.
However, by law, manufacturers are not allowed to promote the elimination, alleviation or prevention of a disease or the suitability for an area of use.
If a product claims to have such an effect, they would need to be approved as a drug.
What to Look for in Dietary Supplements
Nutritional supplements don’t need to go through rigorous testing and quality assurance processes unlike drugs before they reach the market.
Consequently, it would be hard to know which available products have the right quality and are true to their promises. Especially if these products are bought online.
To make sure you are purchasing quality products from trustworthy manufacturers, look for the following information on their label:
- Quantity and dose of ingredients
- Recommended daily intake and which should not be exceeded
- A note saying dietary supplements cannot replace a balanced diet
- A warning to keep them from children’s reach
- What quality and safety regulations must be met by nutritional supplements
Products should have general statements such as “supports the body’s defenses”, “has a balancing effect on hormones” or “supports a healthy joint function”.
This is because dietary supplements should not have pharmacological effects and should only provide the body with nutrients.
Unlike medicines which contain pharmacologically active substances that affect the body and are used to relieve or prevent illnesses and diseases.
8 Reasons Why You Need Vitamin Supplements
If you can eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, you don’t need any more supplements. You’ve got all the vitamins you’d need.
However, if you are under or experiencing any of these circumstances, the temporary intake of dietary supplements may be useful to compensate for specific deficiencies.
1Anyone under a lot of stress
Any form of stress leads to an increased vitamin consumption. This is an important prerequisite for stress reduction.
However, people who suffer from acute infections or are in a post-operative state are also affected.
In general, heavy smokers increase the need for vitamins, because their body uses most of the vitamins to cleanse and detoxify from harmful smoke components.
For instance, their need for vitamin C and folic acid is 40% higher than non-smokers.
| Related: 12 Healthy Foods High in Antioxidants
3High alcohol intakes
Regular alcohol consumption leads to loss of appetite thus lowering normal food intake.
This is partly because the body attempts to compensate for the alcohol-related high calorie intake by sparse food.
In addition, alcohol affects the absorption and utilization of vitamins in any form.
Even wine and beer, which can have a positive effect on the nutrient balance in small quantities, can lead to the same result when excessive.
Particularly affected are vitamins B1 and B6, C, folic acid and niacin.
4On a diet
Even if a diet contains 1,500 kilo calories per day, it’s difficult to establish a balanced nutritional plan that will ensure the supply of vitamins and minerals.
Especially when the diet is extreme like a mono diet, where one eats only one type of food for several weeks.
This will increase the need for vitamin supplements.
Growth and development in puberty require an increased need for vitamins.
And since fast foods are more popular to teens than healthy food, dietary supplements are necessary.
For adolescents, folic acid, vitamins B1 and B2, iron and iodine are particularly important.
6On the pill
Birth control pills with high estrogen content require vitamin supplements.
In particular, the need for vitamin B6, B2 and folic acid increases.
7Pregnant and breastfeeding women
Overall, the vitamin requirement for pregnant women increases up to 30% and in the nursing phase up to 100%.
Vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6, C, folic acid and minerals iron, zinc, iodine and calcium, decrease that’s why vitamin supplements and a rich diet are necessary.
With increasing age, the energy requirement and appetite decreases. Incorrect food handling and preparation cause the loss of nutrients which is also a factor in the drop of essential vitamins.
In addition, the regular intake of medications necessary for many older people, has an additional negative impact on the vitamin balance.
Generally, the elderly has a deficiency on vitamins A, B2, B6, folic acid, C and minerals iron and calcium.
Before You Take Supplements
The purpose of vitamin supplements is to complement a diet, not to replace it.
Sure, they may contain concentrated and potent ingredients, but nothing can replace fruits and vegetables.
Also, bear in mind that supplements may cause adverse effects when taken with other drugs, if you are taking one.
For this reason, be attentive when choosing a dietary supplement because many manufacturers promote products that have questionable and controversial ingredients.
If you think you need to take vitamin supplements, consult with your doctor to know which vitamins and dosages are appropriate for you.