Do You Need Vitamin Supplements?

Vitamin supplementation is a controversial topic in nutrition as numerous products can be found to help consumers prevent deficiencies and maintain normal body functioning. Though vitamins are essential to a healthy life, how much do we actually need? Research shows that we can get adequate vitamins and minerals through a varied diet, yet many individuals take additional vitamin pills and other supplements to help them reach their daily levels.

In most healthy adults, eating a variety of protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains will give us the vitamins and minerals that we need, while taking supplements in addition to eating a varied diet can actually be harmful by increasing our intake to sometimes toxic levels. While this is the case for healthy adults, there are instances where vitamin supplements may be necessary and even required. Supplements are recommended during certain life stages such as pregnancy, lactation and in older adults. For those with vitamin deficiencies either due to poor nutrient absorption, insufficient food intake, or other medical conditions, vitamin supplementation is required. It is also important for vegans or strict vegetarians to take supplements, especially that of B12, since the nutrient may be missing from their diet. Across the world, where vitamin deficiency may be more likely, supplementation can be life-saving in low income or impoverished areas.

In these cases, vitamins can make up for any deficiencies that may occur. In other cases, supplementation may not be required and there are some things to be mindful of when it comes to supplements available on the market. Many supplements are not regulated by the FDA and some have been found to have harmful additives and ingredients. Some supplements may be less researched and we are unaware of long-term effects that they may cause. Many can have false claims, promising to improve strength, provide energy, or make your hair and nails stronger. If someone is eating a varied diet and taking a supplement on top of that, it may cause toxicity if the tolerable upper levels are reached, something that usually is seen only with over-supplementation.

Overall, whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals in our bodies and the safest way of consuming them. Vitamin supplementation can be beneficial in certain stages of life, with certain medical conditions, or for specific diets, but otherwise as a normal, healthy adult, eating a variety of foods can provide us with adequate nutrition. If you have a nutrient deficiency or are missing out on certain food groups in your diet, it is important to do adequate research on the products available and to speak with a professional in the medical field.

About the online MS in Nutrition Education
American University’s online MS in Nutrition Education includes a course on Vitamins and Minerals which explores the role of vitamins and minerals in maintaining cellular health through biochemical and physiological mechanisms. Students will get an in-depth view of specific vitamins and minerals as well as effective ways to translate this information toward efforts for prevention of chronic disease.

About Allison Marco
Allison Marco is a Registered Dietitian licensed in both Washington, DC and Maryland. Prior to coming to American University, she had both counseling and food service roles at Georgetown University working with students, faculty and staff with a range of needs including food allergies, general healthy eating, sports nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, eating disorders and more. She specializes in intuitive and mindful eating and helping clients have a healthier relationship with food.

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.