Taking Daily Vitamins Or Supplements? Read These 5 Important Questions Before Continuing To Do So
A 2019 survey showed that about 80% of Americans take daily vitamins or supplements. According to a February report by a market research firm, they have estimated that by 2027, the international global market for vitamins and supplements has an expectation to go over past 230 billion. That’s a huge number of capsules, gummy bears and horse pills!
These numbers don’t necessarily mean that everybody needs to take vitamins, or that it’s even safe to do so without your doctor’s orders. Before popping these pills, let’s separate fact from fiction. Here are some facts answered by professionals in the healthcare department:
1] Do I need to drink vitamins?
Professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital, David Jenkins, M.D., says that some people like those with a vitamin deficiency really do need to be taking them. Research shows that about a quarter of adults in the U.S. suffer from insufficient levels of Vitamin D because it isn’t found in a lot of food except fatty fish, fortified cereal and dairy. Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D.N., assistant professor of nutrition studies at the University of Alabama at Birminghamsays our bodies can synthesize nutrients from the sun but there are factors like age, skin pigmentation and use of sunscreen that influences a great deal of how much each body is able to produce. \
Despite these facts, do not start taking multivitamins “just because.” A study completed in 2019 says that ingesting supplements don’t improve the lifespan as much as eating food that is packed with the same nutrients and vitamins.
2] Would it be better to get vitamins from food?
“With food, you’re getting the whole nutrient package,” says Kitchin. And yes, while it is better to get vitamins and nutrients through what you eat, there is no guarantee you get all the nutrients you need even if you have a well-balanced diet. Some people who suffer from chronic diseases, are pregnant or have absorption issues require supplements, says spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Melissa Majumdar, R.D.
There are also some nutrients such as vitamin B12 that are difficult to get through diet alone for vegetarians as it is only found in animal products like meat and dairy. Because our bodies are in need of a lot of calcium, Majumdar says that “so many people do need calcium supplements to get their levels up.” Consult your doctor or dietitian in order to measure your levels.
3] Can I find out if the vitamins I’m taking really work?
When it comes to deciding which vitamin brands to trust, there is a range of reliability for each. Kitchin says some of them “don’t always have in them what they say they have.” Buying brands that have already been vetted as A-OK by an independent third party is the best way to know they actually do work. Majumdar also suggests scanning labels for the symbols of the nonprofit United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International.
Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the sale of vitamins like it does with medications, being vigilant in what you intake is vital. Avoid products that boast of quick cures, money-back guarantees, or even alternative treatments to different diseases. “Supplement manufacturers are responsible for the safety and quality of their products, but there’s no regulatory agency checking in,” says Majumdar.
4] Can adults also take gummy vitamins?
While gummies are helpful for those that cannot swallow tablets or capsules, they are not the best option. What a shame. ConsumerLab, a company that does safety and quality testing of consumer products did an analysis last 2017 on gummy products. They discovered that four out of five gummy vitamins failed their testing, which has the highest rate of failure of any supplements available in the market. Aside from failing the safety and quality tests, it was found out that gummies also have different amounts of their ingredients than those that are listed on the label, while some even contained impurities. “We’re seeing improvements since 2017, but we’re still concerned,” says Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of ConsumerLab. Opting for tablet or capsule vitamins is the better way to go.
5] Can I overdose on vitamins?
When it comes to water-soluble vitamins, the body absorbs what it needs and flushes out the rest through the kidneys, but fat-soluble vitamins such as A,D,E, and K end up being stored in the body’s fat deposits. “That means they’re more likely to build up to toxic levels if you’re regularly exceeding the upper limits,” says Kitchin.
There is also proof that even water-soluble vitamins taken in excess will lead to problems. Overdosing on vitamin C can trigger cramps and diarrhea. Too much zinc can also compromise your immune system. Be sure to stick to the daily recommended doses that are shown in the vitamin bottles if you are drinking your supplements without doctor’s orders.