Have you ever asked yourself if you should take any vitamins? Well, many adults take at least one supplement daily. Most take one at least once in a while. These include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals and amino acids, to name a few. They come as pills, powders, drinks and bars. 1
What Should I Take
Supplements are exactly that; supplements. They should not be taken in place of healthy eating habits, but should instead add what your diet may be lacking. For example, it is almost impossible for vegetarians to get enough vitamin B12. So, supplementation may be warranted. 2 Also, some patients should take a calcium supplement for their bones because of factors that require a greater intake. 3 While not every vitamin pill has been scientifically tested to show significant benefit, many have. For example:
- Calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and preventing bone loss.4
- Folic acid for a lower risk of birth defects such as spina bifida.5
- Fish oil for heart health and treatment of heart disease.6
The government regulates supplements differently than prescription drugs. The regulations are mostly the same as they are for food. However, a manufacturer wishing to sell a product with a new ingredient must show the FDA that it is reasonably safe. They also must follow quality standards. These ensure identity, purity, strength and composition. Manufacturers are also inspected for their practices and if they meet a high enough standard are awarded “Good Manufacturing Practices” or GMP. You can find the GMP stamp on some supplements. Lastly, companies like U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com and NSF International provide 3rd party testing of supplements.4
What Vitamins Should I NOT Take?
While vitamins can be a welcome benefit to your health, they may also be risky in certain combinations and especially with medication 7. It is important to notify your health care providers of any supplements you are taking because of potential side-effects. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin K increases blood clotting and can thus reduce the effectiveness of Coumadin. 8
- John’s Wort can interfere with the effectiveness of many anti-depressant drugs. 9 (p. 3)
- Antioxidants like vitamin C can interfere with chemo.10
Who Should I Ask?
You should always discuss your vitamins with your doctor, especially if you take prescription drugs. But the truth is that many health care providers simply aren’t well-educated on nutrition and proper supplementation 11, 12. It isn’t really their fault, they don’t learn it in school. However, there are many physicians, chiropractors, naturopaths and other professionals that have taken it upon themselves to become educated on the subject. If so, they can be great resources to help you maximize your health. And don’t forget dietitians and nutritionists!