Published on Oct 06, 2022 and last reviewed on Mar 06, 2023 - 5 min read
This article will cover the details of the vitamin supplements – what they are, when, why, and by whom they are needed, safety measures for using them, etc.
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.
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.
Bone or joint pain.
Delayed wound healing.
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.
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, etc.
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.
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.
Vitamin supplements come in various forms like tablets, capsules, powders, etc. 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.
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.
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.
Last reviewed at:
06 Mar 2023 - 5 min read
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