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Vitamins – Should You Take Them?

First of all, this is not written against taking vitamins. This is written to help us better understand how vitamins act in our systems and how we do or do not gain from them. The intention is to help you determine if you should be taking a supplement or daily multivitamin of some sort. Ultimately, the choice as to whether or not vitamins can benefit you is up to you and your doctor.

Americans have taken an increasing interest in taking vitamins. In fact, more so than in any other Nation. As a result, we have the costliest urine in the entire world. Our body’s extract from the supplements taken the amount it sometimes may need and the rest is excreted through our urine. Studies have now proven that most people who take vitamins regularly probably don’t need them. We just think we do to give us a quick fix that will allow us to eat and/or drink anything we want, relying on the vitamins to do the rest. The fact is, we are much better off getting our vitamins from the foods we eat. This way we are assured we get the entire nutrient value, whereas a vitamin limits you to one component of a food. For instance, an orange contains the important nutrients of carotene, calcium, fiber and simple sugars along with vitamin C. If you just take a vitamin C supplement, you miss out on these. The same example can be applied to milk and calcium. If you skip the milk and take a calcium supplement you lose vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.

In regards to multivitamins, there are mixed results in studies done. Currently, there are several large studies underway in attempts to determine the possible benefits of taking a daily multivitamin. There have been some previous results that suggest a multivitamin can benefit our health, especially among the elderly in which such a supplement helped make them more resistant to disease. Harvard also has an on-going evaluation of 90,000 nurses for more than 15 years that suggests multivitamins appear to reduce the risk of colon and breast cancers. Therefore, a multivitamin is suggested under the following conditions:

*You are not eating a balanced diet for any reason. This occurrence is most common among the elderly who may have poor teeth, therefore trouble chewing, or those who cannot afford the right foods. Also, senior citizens who live alone have a tendency to eat a poor diet and would do well to take a daily multivitamin.

*You suffer from lactose intolerance. You can become deficient in vitamin D if you suffer the physical symptoms of intestinal gas, cramps, diarrhea and bloating when you consume milk or other dairy products. If you find yourself with this dilemma, a daily dose of at least 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D is recommended.

*You are over the age of 50. After this age, our stomachs cease in making enough stomach acid to digest our food. As a result, we need vitamin B12. You could get an appropriate amount of this vitamin by eating a bowl of high-fiber cereal every morning.

*You are pregnant, of childbearing age or nursing. In these cases, you are providing nutrition for two and need extra vitamins from a prenatal multivitamin.

*You have in your family history the following diseases: colon cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer or Parkinson’s disease. It is strongly urged you take extra vitamin E, 400 IU, all natural (this is important) daily as this could help protect you or help manage these disease.

*Your homocysteine levels are elevated. Homocysteine is a protein thought to be related to an increased risk of coronary artery disease. In such cases, supplements of folic acid as well as vitamins B6 and B12 are recommended.

*You suffer from iron deficiency anemia or are still menstruating. Be sure you are tested low in iron before taking an iron supplement. Too much iron can predispose you to heart disease, cancer and iron overload, called hemochromatosis.

*You have an intestinal condition such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or chronic pancreatitis. These ailments cause diarrhea, which interferes with absorption of the nutrients you eat.

*You are on a weight reduction diet. When dieting, foods are eliminated that you would gain nutrients from, especially if you are eating less than 1200 calories a day. When dieting, if you incorporate some exercise, you should go no lower than 1500 calories a day to adequately supply your body with proper nutrition.

*You are a strict vegetarian. Vegetarians lack in vitamin B12. Most multivitamins can replace what is missing in this case.

Try a Balanced Diet

This brings us to the food pyramid recommended by the health establishment. Here are the guidelines of the infamous food pyramid:

food pyramid

*GRAINS. Six to eleven servings a day are recommended. The grains should be refined which includes rice and other grains, breads, cereal and pasta. This sounds like an awful lot, but in reality, a serving is one piece of bread, one ounce of cereal or ½ cup of rice or pasta. If you eat a simple sandwich with two slices of bread for lunch, you’ve already gotten 1/3 of the minimum daily-required amount.

*FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. Five to nine servings a day are recommended. One piece of fruit, Ύ cup fruit juice or ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables or fruit all equal one serving.

LOW FAT DAIRY PRODUCTS. Two or three servings a day are recommended. This would include milk, cheese or yogurt.

*PROTEIN. Two or three servings are recommended a day. Lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts are all excellent sources of protein.

Final Thoughts:

If you have determined you need a supplement of some sort and your doctor concurs, be sure you only take them in the recommended doses. Too much of any supplement can be very harmful and detrimental to your over all health. For instance, an excess of vitamin A can cause liver disease, bone abnormalities and birth defects in an unborn child. Too much vitamin B6 can result in nerve injuries and balance problems. A vitamin D overdose can lead to kidney disease.

To summarize, most people who eat a balanced diet don’t need vitamins. For others, supplements may help reduce the risk of certain disease.


The following recommendations are from the Council for Responsible Nutrition. They consist of the upper limits of the listed vitamins and minerals. The only exception would be if your physician prescribes otherwise.


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