What you need to know about vitamins

Scientific evidence shows that some dietary supplements are beneficial for overall health and for managing some health conditions.

For example, calcium and vitamin D are important for reducing bone loss; folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects; omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils might help some people with heart disease.

Too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing.

Other supplements need more study to determine their value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed, unlike drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed.

If you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, some supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. However, supplements can’t take the place of a healthy diet.

Dana Darger, director of pharmacy at Regional Health Rapid City Hospital, says, "vitamins are important. But it’s relevant to how good of a dietary intake you have. So if you’re good about eating your fruits and vegetables, you probably don’t need very much in dietary supplements as people who don’t eat fruits and vegetables."

Darger recommends a daily vitamin but says large doses don’t help any more than a regular dose. And too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing.

"I think the majority of adult Americans need just a good once – a – day multivitamin. If you read the label and it says that it has the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of the vitamins, that is all you need. A few of the vitamins can cause toxicity. Vitamin A, D, N, E and K can all build up in your body – actually can cause toxic problems if you get too much of them."

An iron supplement and Vitamin D are recommended for newborns until 6 months old. And calcium and vitamin D are suggested for women – especially at menopausal age.
Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant should take a folic acid supplement.

As far at which form of vitamin is best, Degar says the gummies can be a good vitamin source but are not absorbed as well as the tablets that are swallowed. And liquid vitamins are for those with swallowing issues.

As far as the old adage that when you get sick, take more vitamin c – well, it’s proven that zinc lozenges shorten the duration of a viral infection like a cold.

Degar says you can check if a vitamin is of high quality when the label says “USP” after the name. That means it meets the manufacturing standard of the United States Pharmacopeia – ensuring product quality.

If you think you are deficient in a certain vitamin, see your doctor for a recommendation. An excellent source of information on supplements can be found here.

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