Today, millions of people around the world regularly take vitamins and supplements. In fact, many people have jars full of all sorts of supplements and vitamins underneath their bed and some even have more stock supplies in the garage and basement. The belief today is the vitamins and supplements are the panacea for good health.
Over the years many studies have been done on the benefits of vitamins and supplements on health. There definitely is a role of these agents in people who are ill, not able to eat, or those who have a chronic medical disorder (eg diabetes, cancer, arthritis and so on). However, the role of vitamins and supplements in healthy people is questionable. Recent studies indicate that in healthy people the role of vitamins in preventing disease is minuscule.
The other problem with vitamins and supplements is that most people believe that taking more is better. Since the health supplement industry is unregulated, most people rarely read labels and take whatever they feel like. There are no universal dosages for most supplements and these doses even vary from store to store. What the public should know is that while vitamins can be beneficial it is important to take the right amount to prevent toxicity or adverse reactions. The public also has this erroneous belief that unlike pharmaceutical drugs , vitamins and supplements are completely safe. This is a false assumption. There are countless cases of allergies and interactions reported from the use of supplements and vitamins. Worse, there are regular reports of fake and counterfeit products in the health supplement industry. One can never be sure whether one is consuming a pill made from cardboard or chalk! Many researchers have found that vitamins and supplements sold in health-food stores that are not manufactured with strict care may not have the active ingredients that are advertised and may even contain ingredients not listed on labels.
When taken in the right doses, there is no harm from vitamins and supplements but these products should not be taken as a form of “insurance” for poor dietary habits.
For anyone who is considering taking vitamins and supplements, it is best to read about the product and speak to your healthcare provider first. The most important thing to know is that there is no substitute for a good healthy diet. If one eats a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, cereals, whole grains, seafood, dairy products and nuts, there is probably no need for a healthy person to take supplements. To precisely answer the question of whether “healthy people” should take vitamin supplements begs two questions. First, what do we define as “healthy” and whether such people are already maintaining a healthy diet. Second, an individual with an illness or chronic medical disorder may benefit from supplements if there is a need.
In certain scenarios vitamins may be worthwhile as mentioned below:
- Adults past the age of 50 may consider a vitamin B-12 supplement or adding foods fortified with vitamin B-12 to their diet if they have been diagnosed with anemia.
- Seniors and individuals with light skin, and those individuals who do not get more than 15 minutes of exposure to the sun everyday, should consider a vitamin D supplement or eat foods that are fortified with vitamin D.
- Women who are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant, should be taking folic acid supplements to prevent birth defects.
Because there are no uniform guidelines on supplements and vitamins always speak to your healthcare provider first or check out NutriSearch. NutriSearch has been comparing multiple vitamin and mineral supplements in North America and Canada for over 15 years. Its Blended Standard uses the mean nutritional recommendations from no less than 12 nutritional authorities as a benchmark for optimal nutrient levels. NutriSearch then applies these benchmarks to its 18 health support criteria that are used to evaluate and compare nutritional products.
Remember to prevent disease one not only has to eat Smart but also stop smoking and refrain from consuming excess alcohol. Taking vitamins and supplements every day is also not cheap. For the same amount of money you can eat a decent healthy home cooked meal. Finally, no matter what supplement or vitamin you take, exercise should be a regular part of your lifestyle. This does not mean running a marathon every weekend-simple walking is as good an exercise as any. Walking is free, allows you to enjoy nature and is safe- unless you get hit by a bus while texting.