Nearly half the U.S. population takes vitamins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But do we really need to take vitamins, and are we taking the right ones? Jamie Saunders, MS, a registered dietitian at University of Utah Health, sheds some light on this issue.
Q1. Does a healthy diet provide all the vitamins a person needs?
A. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods from each food group, should provide the vitamins you need. Supplements may be needed when your diet is restricted (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, food allergies, low-calorie diets for weight loss) or when nutrient needs increase, such as during pregnancy.
Q2. What are signs that a person might have a vitamin deficiency?
A. The best way to know whether you have a vitamin deficiency is to get tested by your physician. Supplement only when there is a deficiency or a concern for deficiency, since too much of a vitamin can pose health risks.
Q3: Any tips for selecting a vitamin?
A. Choose a multivitamin that has about 100 percent of the daily value for each vitamin. The United States Pharmacopeia is an organization that analyzes and verifies the supplement's content, so look for a USP-verified symbol on the label. (The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements.)
Q4. Are there vitamins or supplements you should avoid?
A. Avoid taking large doses of any one vitamin, especially when a deficiency is not present or when you are not under medical supervision. Talk with your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist to find out whether supplements may interact with your current medications. Interactions are common and some are severe.