Who May Be At Risk For A Nutrient Deficiency
For those who eat a healthful diet, a multivitamin may have little or no benefit. A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good protein sources, and healthful fats should provide most of the nutrients needed for good health. But not everyone manages to eat a healthful diet. When it comes to specific vitamins and minerals, some Americans get less than adequate amounts, according to criteria set by the National Academy of Medicine. For example, more than 90% of Americans get less than the Estimated Average Requirement for vitamin D and vitamin E from food sources alone.
Certain groups are at higher risk for a nutrient deficiency:
A note on vitamin D
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Does Anyone Need Vitamin And Mineral Supplements Well Yes
There are medical conditions that put people at high risk for certain nutritional deficiencies, and there are medical conditions that can be treated with certain nutritional supplements. This is important, and is why the authors support targeted supplementation. But who needs what and where to acquire these are important discussions to have.
There are guidelines for specific groups, such as pregnant women. Folic acid is especially important for healthy fetal development, and a deficiency can cause spina bifida, a neurologic condition. I advise my patients to start either a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, or at the very least folic acid itself, ideally before they begin trying to conceive. As pregnancy advances, mom needs to provide her growing fetus with everything, and so she will benefit from a prenatal vitamin which contains things like iron and calcium.
Older adults can have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, and I have a low threshold when checking this level if someone is taking an acid-reducing medication, it is very likely that they will become deficient in B12, as well as iron, vitamin D, and calcium, among other things. These folks may very well benefit from a quality multivitamin.
When Addressing A Potential Deficiency Prioritize Whole Foods
Its hard to go wrong with whole foods.
Also, most benefits from micronutrients seem to come from a well-balanced diet, rather than supplementation.4
As much as possible, choose whole, minimally-processed foods when filling nutritional gaps.
Youll want to include foods like:
- colorful fruits and vegetables
- herbs and spices
- lean proteins such as red meat , wild game, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs
- beans and legumes
- whole grains
These foods are the most vitamin- and mineral-rich, but they also contain other nutrients whose benefits were only just starting to understand. These other nutrients include:
- Phytonutrients, found in plant foods, and can act as antioxidants, lower inflammation, and even influence hormone function
- Myconutrients, found in mushrooms and edible fungi, and can help fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens
- Zoonutrients, found in animal foods, like conjugated linoleic acid and creatine, which can help us lower disease risk, build strength and muscle, and preserve brain function
Nutrition science is a relatively young field, and were still learning how foods and nutrients affect us.
But that old apple a day saying? Theres something to it.
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Supplements Don’t Replace Whole Foods
Supplements will never be as good as eating whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables.
It’s unfortunately a myth that taking vitamins and supplements can replicate a healthy diet. Just like you can’t “out-exercise” a poor diet, you can’t “out-supplement” one either. Vitamins can certainly help bridge the gap between what you get from your diet and what you don’t, but using supplements as a way to “fix” your diet won’t work.
There are so many nuances at play here. For example:
- Taking fat-soluble vitamins but failing to eat dietary fat may mean that your body doesn’t adequately absorb the vitamins
- Taking a daily multivitamin but disregarding fruits and vegetables means you don’t get the antioxidants or fiber found in plant foods
- Drinking protein shakes but not eating meat could present vitamin B12 deficiency over time
- Taking a vitamin D supplement without getting enough calcium might negate the supplement’s beneficial effects on bone health
That list is far from comprehensive, but you can see that vitamins and supplements don’t just magically undo poor eating habits. Scientific conclusions vary greatly — from “we don’t need vitamins at all” to “the benefits outweigh the risks” — but the general consensus seems to be that vitamins and supplements can help prevent nutrient deficiencies in certain populations and when taken correctly and support health in conjunction with a nutritious diet.
Always Talk With A Professional
While the nutritionists we spoke to agree that supplements can be helpful, it’s important to always talk with your healthcare provider before jumping in with a vitamin regimen. Most vitamin supplements contain 100 percent of the recommended daily amount, so if you’re already consuming a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, you would be taking in way more than the National Institutes of Health recommends.
Unfortunately when it comes to vitamins, you really can have too much of a good thing.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a meta-analysis of studies looking at more than 400,000 people found that a daily vitamin supplement was associated with an increased cancer risk. A separate study of women found that a daily supplement was linked to an increased risk for skin cancer.
Taking vitamin A supplements with beta-carotene has been proven to increase the risk of lung cancer in study participants. In one study, the increased risk was a whopping 28 percent, which caused the researchers to actually end the study early.
Calcium supplements have not been proven to improve bone density. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants taking a daily calcium supplement were more likely to suffer a hip fracture.
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Folic Acid Supplement In Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, trying for a baby or could get pregnant, it’s recommended that you take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid supplements need to be taken before you get pregnant, so start taking them before you stop using contraception or if there’s a chance you might get pregnant.
Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Find out more about vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.
How To Test Your Vitamin And Mineral Levels
Most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be picked up with a blood test, like:
- a venous blood test a trained professional will use a needle to puncture a vein, usually in your arm, to collect a blood sample.
- a finger-prick blood test using a lancet, you can prick your own finger and collect a small blood sample.
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Vitamins And Minerals For Older Adults
Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 essential vitamins vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins .
Vitamins have different jobs to help keep the body working properly. Some vitamins help you resist infections and keep your nerves healthy, while others may help your body get energy from food or help your blood clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food.
Like vitamins, minerals also help your body function. Minerals are elements that our bodies need to function that can be found on the earth and in foods. Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.
Tablets: The Pop Bottle Methodiv
Step 1: Take a plastic soda or water bottle and fill it with drinkable water.
Step 2: Place the vitamin tablet on the center of your tongue and put your lips on the opening of the filled bottle, creating a tight seal.
Step 3: Drink the water from the bottle, making sure to keep your lips firmly sealed around the bottle. When the water enters your mouth, use a sucking motion to swallow the tablet and water.
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The Difference Between Vitamins And Minerals
Although they are all considered micronutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure.
So why does this matter? It means the minerals in soil and water easily find their way into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume. But its tougher to shuttle vitamins from food and other sources into your body because cooking, storage, and simple exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile compounds.
Essential Nutrients For Your Body
Every day, your body produces skin, muscle, and bone. It churns out rich red blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to remote outposts, and it sends nerve signals skipping along thousands of miles of brain and body pathways. It also formulates chemical messengers that shuttle from one organ to another, issuing the instructions that help sustain your life.
But to do all this, your body requires some raw materials. These include at least 30 vitamins, minerals, and dietary components that your body needs but cannot manufacture on its own in sufficient amounts.
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrientsbecause acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system. They also convert food into energy, and repair cellular damage.
But trying to keep track of what all these vitamins and minerals do can be confusing. Read enough articles on the topic, and your eyes may swim with the alphabet-soup references to these nutrients, which are known mainly be their initials .
In this article, youll gain a better understanding of what these vitamins and minerals actually do in the body and why you want to make sure youre getting enough of them.
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Vitamins And Minerals: How To Get What You Need
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals found in food that nourish your body and help keep you healthy. They are essential to your overall health.
Choosing foods each day that are rich in vitamins and minerals is the best way for your body to get what it needs to be healthy. However, research consistently finds that most Americans dont get enough vitamins and minerals in their diets.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture , adult Americans do not typically get enough of the following nutrients:
- vitamins A, C, D, and E
How Can I Be A Smart Supplement Shopper
Be a savvy supplement user. Heres how:
- When searching for supplements on the internet, use noncommercial sites rather than depending on information from sellers.
- If claims sound too good to be true, they probably are. Be mindful of product claims such as works better than , totally safe, or has no side effects.
- Be aware that the term natural doesnt always means safe.
- Ask your healthcare provider if the supplement youre considering would be safe and beneficial for you.
- Always remember safety first!
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Who Is Responsible For The Safety Of Dietary Supplements
FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.
The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe BEFORE they go to market.
If the dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, manufacturers must notify FDA about that ingredient prior to marketing. However, the notification will only be reviewed by FDA and only for safety, not effectiveness.
Manufacturers are required to produce dietary supplements in a quality manner and ensure that they do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled according to current Good Manufacturing Practice and labeling regulations.
If a serious problem associated with a dietary supplement occurs, manufacturers must report it to FDA as an adverse event. FDA can take dietary supplements off the market if they are found to be unsafe or if the claims on the products are false and misleading.
The Latest Research On Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements have long been touted as important to bone health. The problem is that several studies have found that they dont live up to the hype. Vitamin D supplementation doesnt prevent fractures or falls, or have any effect on bone mineral density that is clinically meaningful, according to large review of over 81 clinical trials published in October 2018 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 30265-1″ rel=”nofollow”> 4)
Nor was vitamin D supplementation found to reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death in a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving over 25,000 participants that was published in January 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Yet researchers found that those who developed cancer had a 25 percent lower death rate when they were taking vitamin D. The findings also included a possible reduction in cancer risk for African Americans, which researchers wrote warrants further study.
Meanwhile, though observational studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a randomized, controlled clinical trial published in June 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine did not support that conclusion. Vitamin D3 supplementation at a dose of 4,000 IU per day did not result in a significantly lower risk of diabetes compared with a placebo.
Still, before you dispose of your supplements, speak with your doctor.
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Boosting Your Immune System
Perhaps the most common claim for supplements is that they boost your immune system. Researchers have been studying whether any can help.
Many nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, selenium, and magnesium are important for a healthy immune system, Haggerty says. But so far, getting more than the recommended amount of any nutrient doesnt appear to boost the immune system.
Researchers are testing whether certain supplements can lessen COVID-19 symptoms. But so far, the data are insufficient to support recommendations for or against any vitamin, mineral, or botanical product to prevent or treat COVID-19, Haggerty says.
Scientists are also looking at supplements for other viruses. Khan and colleagues are studying a botanical extract made from a type of algae, called spirulina. Studies in mice have shown that compounds in it may increase the immune response and protect against viral infection. The team wants to test whether it can be used to protect against the flu.
But a challenge with botanical supplements is that they can vary from bottle to bottle, Khan explains. So the team must first fully characterize the product before they can test it in clinical trials.
You might wonder: If supplements arent the answer, what can you do to boost your immune system right now? The most important thing is to eat a nutritious variety of foods and maintain a healthy weight, Haggerty says. Obesity can weaken your immune system.
Yes You Can Overdose Vitamins And Supplements
Taking too many vitamins can result in dangerous side effects, so be careful to check the Recommended Daily Allowance for each vitamin you take.
One common vitamin myth is this: “If I take too many vitamins, it’s fine, because my body will only keep what it needs and get rid of the rest as waste.”
This is a pervasive mindset but a dangerous one. You can, in fact, overdose on vitamins. The term is “vitamin toxicity” and it can happen with any vitamin. For almost every vitamin, there is an established Recommended Daily Allowance or Adequate Intake , as well as a Tolerable Upper Intake Level .
The RDA or AI signifies an ideal daily intake while the UL indicates the high end of what’s safe to consume. RDAs, AIs and ULs are all values under Dietary Reference Intakes , the set of reference values assigned to foods and supplements for consumption.
It’s not just vitamins that can be toxic either: Minerals taken in high doses can be toxic, as can electrolytes, herbs and sports supplements. Zinc, for example, a mineral known and loved for its immune-boosting properties, can actually cause immunosuppression in extremely high doses.
Surpassing the UL of any vitamin, mineral, electrolyte or other supplement can cause harm, so be careful to do your research on any supplements you intend to take.
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A Closer Look At Trace Minerals
A thimble could easily contain the distillation of all the trace minerals normally found in your body. Yet their contributions are just as essential as those of major minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which each account for more than a pound of your body weight.
Trace minerals carry out a diverse set of tasks. Here are a few examples:
- Iron is best known for ferrying oxygen throughout the body.
- Fluoride strengthens bones and wards off tooth decay.
- Zinc helps blood clot, is essential for taste and smell, and bolsters the immune response.
- Copper helps form several enzymes, one of which assists with iron metabolism and the creation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
The other trace minerals perform equally vital jobs, such as helping to block damage to body cells and forming parts of key enzymes or enhancing their activity.