Nutritional Supplements - Are They Necessary
According to the FDA, itamins are essential nutrients
that contribute to a healthy life" and according
to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many
people consume more calories than they need without
taking in recommended amounts of a number of nutrients.
This suggests that we need to evaluate our eating
habits as well as consider nutritional supplements
in order to achieve the recommended levels of
Numerous reports suggest that the average American
diet contains too much saturated fat, processed
sugars and lacks the full compliment of 13 vitamins
that are essential to human body functions. We
ingest too much "bad" stuff and not
enough "good" stuff.
In addition to
this, doctors may also recommend nutritional supplements
for certain health problems, if you eat a vegetarian
or vegan diet or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
(American Academy of Family Physicians - AAFP).
The 13 essential vitamins are A, C, D, E, K, and
B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic
acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate).
Are There Risks Associated with Taking Vitamins
and Nutritional Supplements?
Quality nutritional supplements manufactured
in accordance with the FDA's "current Good
Manufacturing Practice" (cGMP) are believed
to be safe; however, excessive or inappropriate
use may have side effects or not produce the desired
results. The body handles vitamins differently
depending on whether they are Water-soluble or
Water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin C and Vitamin
B) are easily absorbed by the body and are not
stored in large amounts. Excessive amounts above
what is needed are removed by the kidneys and
passed through the urine. Taking too much of these
vitamins generally result in a waste of money
but may also cause side effects such as:
* Vitamin B-3 (niacin): Flushing, redness of
the skin and upset stomach.
* Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine):
Nerve damage to the limbs, which may cause numbness,
trouble walking, and pain.
* Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Upset stomach, kidney
stones and increased iron absorption.
* Folic Acid (folate): Masking of B-12 deficiency,
especially in older adults, which is a condition
that can cause nerve damage.
Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K)
are absorbed into the body and stored for use
as needed. One should be especially careful about
not over-doing it with these vitamins. Some of
the side effects that may accompany ingesting
too much of these vitamins include:
* Vitamin A - Nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness,
blurred vision, clumsiness, birth defects, liver
problems and possible risk of osteoporosis.
* Vitamin D: Nausea, vomiting, poor appetite,
constipation, weakness, weight loss, confusion,
heart rhythm problems, deposits of calcium and
phosphate in soft tissues.
* If you take blood thinners, you should talk
to your doctor before taking vitamin E or vitamin
K pills according to the AAFP.
There are, of course, nutritional supplements
other than the essential 13 noted above. These
include herbal remedies, amino acids, digestive
enzymes, probiotics and various minerals each
of which are believed to provide certain benefits
to aide the body's various functions.
How Do I Safely Take Vitamins and Nutritional
There are numerous scientific studies as well
as anecdotal evidence suggesting specific benefits
for each available vitamin and nutritional supplement;
however, everyone has unique needs so a health
care provider should always be consulted prior
to taking any medicine, vitamin or other nutritional
supplement in order to determine which ones may
be needed and to also discuss any possible adverse
interactions with other medications.
Nutritional supplements are called "supplements"
for a good reason. They are not intended to replace
good dietary habits. They are intended, however,
to supplement good eating habits in order to make
up for particular nutrients that may be lacking
or to address particular issues.
nutritional supplement program, along with a healthy
diet, are widely believed to help the body in
a number of different ways but vitamins and other
nutritional supplements are not intended to diagnose,
treat or cure diseases or illnesses. Be wary of
advertisements that suggest otherwise and always
consult your healthcare provider to ensure your
nutrition plan has the right balance of healthy
foods, vitamins, nutritional supplements and/or
any medications that you may require.
According to Vasilios Frankos, Ph.D., Director
of FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs,
"Vitamins are not dangerous unless you get
too much of them." So, consume a variety
of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and
among the basic food groups while limiting the
intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol,
added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
nutrient intakes by adopting proper eating habits
and using nutritional supplements as deemed appropriate
by your healthcare provider based on your body's
nutrient levels, age, whether you are pregnant
or may become pregnant, have dark skin, do not
receive sufficent sunlight exposure or meet other
criteria requiring supplementation. Following
these guidelines and the advice of your healthcare
provider should make taking vitamins and nutritional
supplements both safe and effective for healthier