The Latest Science On Supplements
Scientists know that people who eat lots of vitamin- and mineral-rich foods tend to live longer and healthier lives. But when those nutrients are served up in pill form, its still unclear whether they have the same effect. For example, a major 2015 study found that taking dietary supplements does not appear to reduce the risk of cancer.
Several studies, including one published last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, have also found that regular supplement use has no net effect on heart health or risk of early death.
We found a surprising neutrality of effects, lead author David Jenkins, MD, professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, told Health. In other words, it didnt seem to do anything. Their findings were true for multivitamins as well as for vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium supplementsall nutrients that have been touted for heart health in the past.
In light of these and other studies, most experts now say that dietary supplements arent all they were once made out to be. For the average healthy person, you probably dont need a multivitamin, multimineral supplement, says Beth Kitchin, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And you certainly dont need a lot of additional supplements on top of that.
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Do You Need To Top Up Your Vits Every Day
There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Some multivitamin pills also contain minerals and trace elements, particularly calcium, zinc and iron. You should be able to get enough of these three minerals from your diet unless you have a condition that increases your requirement.
- Calcium is needed for strong bones you need 700mg per day.
- Zinc is needed for your immune and digestive system women need 7mg per day, men 9.5mg per day.
- Iron is needed to release energy for food and to transport oxygen around your blood. Women aged 19-50 need 14.8mg iron per day, men 8.7mg.
When To See A Doctor
The symptoms of vitamin deficiency vary. Some deficiencies have no symptoms at all. In general, if you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor:
- You are losing your hair.
- You feel weak.
- You are often tired, even when you get plenty of sleep.
- You have cracks in the corners of your mouth.
- You have acne-like bumps on your cheeks, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
- Your vision is getting worse, especially at night.
- You have dry eyes.
- You are having panic attacks.
- You have tingling or numbness in your hands and feet.
- Your gums bleed.
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How Antioxidants May Help
Antioxidants are able to neutralize marauders such as free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons. When a vitamin C or E molecule makes this sacrifice, it may allow a crucial protein, gene, or cell membrane to escape damage. This helps break a chain reaction that can affect many other cells.
It is important to recognize that the term antioxidant reflects a chemical property rather than a specific nutritional property. Each of the nutrients that has antioxidant properties also has numerous other aspects and should be considered individually. The context is also importantin some settings, for example, vitamin C is an antioxidant, and in others it can be a pro-oxidant.
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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Can You Take Too Much Vitamin D
Too much vitamin D can be harmful. The body cant make too much vitamin D in the sun.
Excess weight gain often occurs as a result of taking supplements. However, it is very rare and usually only occurs when people take a very high dose for an extended period of time, such as over a year.
The highest amount of vitamin D a person can take before it causes health problems is 4,000 IU daily.
Signs of high vitamin D levels in the blood include:
Calcium: The Excess Settles In Your Arteries
Calcium is essential for strong bones and a healthy heart, but too much is not a good thing. In fact, an excess of calcium, which is described by the NIH as more than 2,500 mg per day for adults ages 19 to 50, and more than 2,000 mg per day for individuals 51 and over, can lead to problems.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, Researchers believe that without adequate vitamin D to help absorb it, the extra calcium settles in the arteries instead of the bones.
In addition, an analysis of 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, published October 10, 2016, in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggested that taking calcium supplements may increase plaque buildup in the aorta and other arteries. In contrast, a diet high in calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products and leafy greens, appeared to be protective.
Get calcium from your diet if you can, advises Dr. Millstine, noting that research shows that calcium is better absorbed through food than through supplements.
Calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia, may be detected by routine blood tests. If you have low calcium blood levels, your doctor may prescribe a calcium supplement.
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Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
Birth defects, especially neural tube defects
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Folic acid may help prevent major birth defects of the fetuss brain and spine called neural tube defects .
When you are pregnant you need 600 micrograms of folic acid each day. Because its hard to get this much folic acid from food alone, you should take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms starting at least 1 month before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Women who have had a child with an NTD should take 4 milligrams of folic acid each day as a separate supplement at least 3 months before pregnancy and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. You and your ob-gyn or other obstetric care provider can discuss whether you need to supplement with more than 400 micrograms daily.
Iron is used by your body to make the extra blood that you and your fetus need during pregnancy. Women who are not pregnant need 18 mg of iron per day. Pregnant women need more, 27 mg per day. This increased amount is found in most prenatal vitamins.
Calcium is a mineral that builds your fetuss bones and teeth. Women who are age 18 or younger need 1,300 mg of calcium per day. Women who are 19 or older need 1,000 mg per day.
Give you energy
Supply energy for your fetuss development
Promote good vision
A Closer Look At Antioxidants
Antioxidant is a catchall term for any compound that can counteract unstable molecules such as free radicals that damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells.
Your body cells naturally produce plenty of antioxidants to put on patrol. The foods you eatand, perhaps, some of the supplements you takeare another source of antioxidant compounds. Carotenoids and flavonoids are antioxidants. The vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium also have antioxidant properties.
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How To Take Your Daily Vitamins
You may be getting many of these vitamins from your diet, but if you are not, what do you take?
One of the most common ways people supplement their vitamin intake is with a single multivitamin product. There are many multivitamins on the market, and the formulation for any given one is set by the manufacturer. In general, multivitamins attempt to provide most of the vitamins, likely along with other minerals, at a level near the RDA for each ingredient. As a consumer, it is important to read the label to understand if it is providing the vitamin you need at the appropriate level. If you have any questions or need help determining what you need, pharmacists and nutritionists are great resources.
If you feel that you are getting most of the vitamins you need from your diet, you can buy individual vitamin products to supplement a few. Just make sure you are aware of how much you need to add to your intake, as many of these vitamins are available in a variety of doses. While rare, it is possible to take too much of a vitamin, so always check with a health professional before taking doses above the RDA.
Certain factors such as age, pregnancy, and other immune or health conditions will affect how much of each vitamin you need. Your healthcare provider may make specific recommendations for your condition.
Fish Oil Supplements: Choose Fish Or Flaxseed Instead
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has been touted as a means to reduce heart disease. However, more and more evidence shows that fish oil supplements have questionable heart benefits. A study published January 3, 2019, in The New England Journal of Medicine found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements did nothing to reduce heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from heart disease in middle-aged and older men and women without any known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. An earlier study, published in May 2013 in NEJM, looked at people at high risk for cardiovascular disease and also reported no benefit.
According to the NIH, omega-3 deficiency is very rare in the United States. Still, many people fail to consume enough omega-3s daily for optimal health. The best way to get adequate amounts is by eating a variety of foods that are rich in them, including:
- Fish and other seafood, especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines
- Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts
- Plant oils, such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil
- Fortified foods, such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages
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Is It Possible To Take Too Many Vitamins
Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis says she takes 20 pills a day. Here’s why that may not be such a good ideafor your wallet or your health.
In an ideal world, wed all eat a perfectly balanced diet every day, getting 100% of the vitamins and minerals we need from fresh, tasty, and home-cooked foods. In real life, however, that rarely happens. Thats where supplements come intheoretically, at least.
For decades, we were taught that vitamins and minerals in pill form could help make up for deficiencies in the typical American diet, or provide health and energy boosts that food alone couldnt. In recent years, however, many scientists have changed their tunes, as study after study shows no evidence that most popular supplements have any real health benefits.
That hasnt stopped the industry from booming, however. Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on supplements, and more than half of adults have taken a supplement in the past 30 days, according to a 2016 study in JAMA. Many of them regularly take more than one, and some go to extremes: Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis recently told The Cut that she takes 20 pills a day on the advice of her acupuncturist10 in the morning and 10 in the evening.
But will all those supplements actually do you any good? And more importantly, is it possible to take too many vitamins? We posed those questions to health and nutrition experts, and dug into the latest research. Heres what we learned.
Which Vitamins Help With Covid
Corona viruses are a large group of viral infections that can affect both humans and animals. They get their name from the Latin root for crown or the aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun. This is because they have projections from themselves looking like the projections seen on our sun.
There are now seven known Corona viruses that have affected humans. The first four types are common and cause common colds. The next 3 include SARS, MERS and now the most recent pandemic SARs-CoV2, also better known as the COVID-19 Virus that is causing the current pandemic.
This virus, like many of its family members, can last on surfaces for days and it is good to be in the habit of washing your hands after touching door handles, railings, chairs, and tables at outdoor centers.
- Avoid touching your face and always wash your hands and face with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, which has shown to kill Corona Viruses. Use a fist pump or elbow to greet someone and avoid shaking hands.
- Avoid any person that is coughing or appears ill since the duration of contact has shown to be of utmost importance.
- Try to avoid large gatherings or wear a mask to protect yourself while with others.
- Masks must be changed often to keep from becoming ineffective.
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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.
Ginseng For Stress Relief
Ginseng is an antioxidant rumored to have a cognitive benefit, fight cancer, and boost energy. But when scientists in Korea reviewed research on ginsengs cognitive benefit, they could not find enough evidence that ginseng does any good. Ginsengs role in fighting cancer was explored by researchers at the University of Chicago, who did find that it caused lab cultures of colon-cancer cells to die. More research still needs to be conducted though to determine if ginseng supplements have an anti-cancer effect in people. Plus, there are potential drawbacks to ginseng supplements, such as nausea .
The bottom line: Skip ginseng supplements: Theres just not enough scientific evidence out there that supports the use of ginseng to prevent disease.
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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.
B Vitamins For Energy
There are eight B vitamins in all, including folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin, and theyre crucial for cell metabolism, immunity, and energy production. B vitamins can easily be obtained from eating a healthy diet, Brill says. However, some people have special needs.
Because vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in animal products, vegans and some vegetarians should take B12 supplements. Getting enough folic acid is critical for all women who may become pregnant in order to reduce the risk for neural tube, or spinal cord, defects. Since 1998, many foods such as breads, cereals, and pastas have been fortified with folic acid, which is a step in the right direction. Women contemplating pregnancy, however, should be sure to get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, typically through a supplement. Research from the University of California at Davis also found that about 6 percent of people age 60 or older in the United States and in the United Kingdom are vitamin B12 deficient, and almost 20 percent are marginally deficient, so seniors may also need supplementation.
The bottom line: Consult with your doctor to see how your levels stack up before self-supplementing.
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