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Vitamin Supplements - Everything You Need to Know

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This article will cover the details of the vitamin supplements – what they are, when, why, and by whom they are needed, and safety measures for using them.

Written by

Dr. Zeba Jabeen

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At October 6, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 13, 2024

What Are Vitamin Supplements?

Vitamins are essential macronutrients required by the body for various metabolic processes. The demand for vitamins is usually fulfilled from the diet taken by an individual, but in certain conditions, the diet remains insufficient, and supplements are advised to be taken. Vitamins B, C, D, and E are the most frequently deficient vitamins. Lately, the intake of vitamin supplements has gained momentum among various age groups for different reasons. Vitamin supplements cannot substitute a balanced diet; instead, they are an adjunct to it. The pharmaceutical industry is making massive revenue from these supplements and further encourages their use through their distinct marketing strategies.

Vitamin supplements are indeed necessary in cases of nutritional deficiencies or exceptional circumstances. Vitamin additives have been proven to have little or no role in preventing other health issues when the diet is appropriate. The supplements intake is also of concern because the FDA has not regulated them. As per the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, in healthy adults, multivitamins or individual vitamins are little beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. For cancer, longitudinal trials are needed to provide the appropriate information. On the contrary, a combination of antioxidants, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids may delay age-related diseases of the eyes.

When To Go For Vitamin Supplements?

Some manifestations demand the addition of supplements to the patient's intake, and the doctor should be contacted immediately when they are present.

The indications are:

  • Severe hair loss.

  • Extreme fatigue.

  • Bone or joint pain.

  • Abnormal heartbeat.

  • Delayed wound healing.

  • Vision changes.

Adults at high risk for certain diseases like osteoporosis and those with nutritional deficiencies mainly due to certain health conditions like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, etc., call for nutrients apart from their daily diet. People with vitamin B12 deficiency and lactose intolerance depend on supplements for their basic health needs. Some research claims that formulations of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, zinc, and copper have lowered the chances of macular degeneration in adults.

Who Needs Vitamin Supplements?

The groups of people who are in high need of vitamin supplements are as follows:

Older Adults: The reduced food intake in old individuals makes them susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. Hence, the use of vitamin supplements is a must for them. The American Academy of Medicine suggested the intake of vitamin B12 supplements or foods fortified with vitamin B for people above fifty years of age and above.

Pregnant and Lactating Females: For pregnant, lactating women or those trying to conceive, the folate requirement is high compared to other women and is not provided by a daily diet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S, advised all females of reproductive age (15 to 45 years) to include 600 mcg of folate in their diet every day. The supplement intake is vital for the proper development of the fetus, infant, and expecting mother.

Young Children: Children under five should be given supplements like iron and vitamin D to compensate for their lower dietary intake and inadequate nutrition.

Malabsorption and Related Issues:

People with the following conditions usually face problems with the normal absorption of nutrients:

  • Those are suffering from diseases like celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease.

  • Those who had gastric bypass surgery or Whipple's procedure, in which parts of digestive organs are eliminated from the body.

  • Issues causing vomiting or diarrhea.

  • In chronic alcoholism, nutrients like vitamins B and C are prevented from absorption C.

  • In patients with autoimmune disorders like thalassemia and pernicious anemia.

  • In some instances of gene mutations and food allergies.

Intake of Some Drugs: Certain medications like diuretics, proton-pump inhibitors, and drugs for Parkinsonism prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6 and B12, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Vegetarians, vegans, or people following a stringent dietary pattern.

What Is the Best Approach for Taking Vitamins, Including Multivitamins and Wellness Supplements, and Is There an Ideal Time to Consume Them?

Vitamins and supplements can be valuable additions to a healthy lifestyle, but their efficacy can vary based on individual needs and the type of supplement.

1. Timing:

The best time to take multivitamins and supplements can differ depending on the specific nutrient. Some vitamins are better absorbed with food, while others are more effective on an empty stomach. For instance, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are typically better absorbed with a meal containing fats, while water-soluble vitamins (B complex, C) are often fine to take on an empty stomach.

2. Consistency:

Taking vitamins and supplements regularly is often more important than the specific time of day. Consistency helps maintain steady levels of nutrients in the body, which can be more beneficial than sporadic intake.

3. Quality Matters:

Not all supplements are created equal. Look for reputable brands that have undergone testing for quality and purity.

4. Wellness Supplements:

While multivitamins cover a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, some wellness supplements like probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, or herbal supplements may have specific benefits for certain individuals. Again, it's essential to consider individual needs and consult a professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Which Vitamin Gives Energy to Men?

Certain vitamins can help boost energy levels in men. Vitamin B-complex (including B12, B6, and folate) is crucial for turning food into energy. Vitamin D, found in sunlight and foods like fish, aids energy levels, while iron, in foods like lean meats, is vital for preventing fatigue. Magnesium, found in nuts and leafy greens, supports energy production, and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), present in meats and available as a supplement, also assists in cellular energy. Creatine, in meats and supplements, can help too. Maintaining a balanced diet with these nutrients can aid in sustaining energy levels, but consulting a healthcare professional before starting supplements is advisable.

How Long Does It Take for Vitamins to Work?

The time it takes for vitamins to show effects varies. Some vitamins, like B-complex, might provide a quick boost in a few days due to their quick absorption, while others, such as fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, could take longer as they accumulate in the body over weeks or months. It depends on factors like the type of vitamin, body's existing levels, and how consistently Individual take them. For noticeable changes, it might take from a few days to several weeks, particularly if correcting deficiencies. Always consult a healthcare professional for guidance on timelines and appropriate dosages.

When Do Vitamin Supplements Not Needed?

There are many instances and conditions during which the body does not require vitamin supplements. Yet, people consume them to satisfy themselves psychologically.

Such conditions are as follows:

  • When an individual eats an adequate diet or still constantly feels tired, the supplements should be taken only on the physician's advice.

  • When dietary intake is good, the person wishes to enhance his nutrition without causing side effects.

  • Only the particular deficient nutrient should be consumed in patients with osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia, not the comprehensive multivitamins.

  • High doses or even the recommended daily allowance of specific vitamins and minerals are not advised in many circumstances. They may interfere with the absorption of other nutrients or medications and cause lethal health issues.

Which Vitamin Supplements To Choose?

Vitamin supplements come in various forms like tablets, capsules, powders. Different combinations include vitamin B-complex, calcium, and vitamin D, or as broad supplements. Commercial and standard generic brands are manufacturing the supplements, and both have the same potency. Yet they need to be approved by the regional regulatory body. However, the retail brands come with a hefty price tag, so either of the supplements can be chosen as per the individual's choice.

What Are the Safety Concerns in Using Vitamin Supplements?

Almost all supplements are safe for ingestion, except a few.

Such vitamins are as follows:

  • The risk of lung cancer increases in smokers with high doses of beta-carotene.

  • In pregnant women, vitamin A can cause fetal abnormalities at birth.

  • Vitamin C and E overdose may hamper the action of cancer treatment drugs and may even induce the growth of tumors.

  • Increased intake of calcium and vitamin D leads to the development of kidney stones.

  • Large amounts of vitamin E may cause strokes due to bleeding in the brain.

  • The action of anticoagulants is affected by higher doses of vitamin K.

  • High amounts of vitamin B12 can lead to anxiety, dizziness, and headache.

  • Impaired body movements can occur due to nerve damage caused by a higher intake of vitamin B6 for a prolonged period.

Conclusion:

Vitamin supplements are not strictly a no to use, but their consumption should be based on an individual's health conditions, health needs, dietary intake, age, and other relevant factors. Nevertheless, supplements alone cannot fulfill the demand and needs of vitamins required by the body, so they should be taken along with a balanced diet and under the supervision of a registered doctor, as their high doses may cause serious health risks.

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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