KENILWORTH, N.J., Aug. 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Vitamin supplements are big business in the U.S. Roughly half of Americans take some sort of vitamin supplement every day, and a walk through your local pharmacy or grocery store may have you believe the right combination of nutrients can easily improve your wellbeing or counteract unhealthy lifestyle and diet decisions.
Studies have shown, however, that taking a daily multivitamin does not provide significant health benefits for most generally healthy people. In a marketplace filled with confusion and debate about the efficacy of vitamin supplements, Dr. Larry Johnson, MD, discusses the evidence on MerckManuals.com.
Dr. Johnson, an Associate Professor of Geriatrics for the Reynolds Institute on Aging at UAMS College of Medicine, shares five things that consumers should know before taking a vitamin supplement:
1. Vitamin deficiencies are relatively rare in the United States
Most people eating a healthy, balanced diet get all the vitamins they need to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) without having to take any additional supplements. What's more, vitamins have not been shown to have an impact on most short-term illnesses.
That's why it's misleading when supplements are marketed by connecting common symptoms to vitamin deficiencies. Millions of Americans regularly feel tired and fatigued, but it has more to do with working too much and not getting enough sleep than it does with a specific vitamin deficiency.
2. Some diets and conditions make you more likely to need vitamin supplements
While vitamin deficiencies are rare for most adults, people who follow certain diets or live with certain disorders are more likely to need to supplement their vitamin intake. Vegans, for example, should make sure they're getting enough B12. Individuals who are lactose intolerant may need more vitamin D and calcium than they get in their daily diets.
3. Our vitamin needs change over time
As we get older, our intake of some vitamins can change. For example, the skin of older individuals does not make as much vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. They also tend to eat less and spend less time outdoors. As you get older, it's crucial to work with a doctor to make sure you're hitting the RDA, especially for vitamin D.
4. You need to tell your doctor about vitamins you're taking
Just because you don't need a prescription to get vitamins doesn't mean you should start taking them without talking to your doctor first. Too many people fear their doctor will be dismissive of the idea of taking a regular vitamin, but he or she should be willing to discuss the pros and cons with you.
What's more, some vitamins may interfere with prescription medications. A physician who knows your medical background can advise on the advantages or potential downsides of certain supplements.
5. Vitamins are no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise
If you want to decrease your risk of long-term health issues like heart disease and cancer, don't look in the supplements aisle at the grocery store. Start in the produce aisle – eat a healthy, varied diet heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Find a workable exercise regimen, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and don't smoke. There's no magic pill that will make you a healthier person, but there are many other ways to feel better and live longer.
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