Do I Have to Take Vitamins, Minerals and Nutritional Supplements?

Unless you have blood tests to check the levels of vitamins and minerals present in your body, knowing which supplements you actually need can be tricky. But there are general guidelines that have been established for certain groups of people, based on research. So if you (or your children) fall into one of these groups, you may want to assess your need for nutritional supplements:

Infants and children

Infants breast-fed by healthy mothers usually receive enough vitamins. In some cases, however, vitamins K and D can be deficient. Mother's milk has low levels of vitamin K, and a newborn baby's intestinal tract may not produce enough of it. This is why most babies are given an injection of vitamin K right after being born.

Infants breast-fed by malnourished women or by those who don't get enough sunlight may be vitamin D-deficient. Under these circumstances, supplements with 200-300 IU of vitamin D are recommended. Store-bought formulas are required by law to have the right mix of vitamins and minerals. This is because there is at least one study that suggests that if infants are given vitamin supplements, it may keep them from developing Type I diabetes later on.

It's important to note that most children's daily diets -- even the portion they get from school cafeterias -- are filled with chemicals, processed foods and sugar. This can cause sleepiness and the inability to concentrate, along with a variety of possible long-term problems, including juvenile diabetes and dental cavities. For this reason, it's critical that children get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a wide variety of nutritious foods. If they do, they shouldn't require supplementation.

It's also important that they drink plenty of water to keep their bodily systems running smoothly and their teeth clean. As an adjunct to this, they should be taught how to brush their teeth properly and floss, have regular dental check-ups and have access to whatever dental supplies they need to keep their mouths healthy. In extreme circumstances, dental problems can trigger other serious physical problems, so caring for children's teeth isn't just about keeping them white. But today's electric toothbrushes come in kid-friendly cartoon designs, so brushing can be fun with a little encouragement from you.

Smokers should pay special attention to their diets to ensure they get enough vitamins and minerals. - Photo by Ria Hills
Smokers should pay special attention to their diets to ensure they get enough vitamins and minerals. - Photo by Ria Hills
Some elderly people don't eat regular meals, so they don't get the nutrition they need. - Photo by Jorc Navarro
Some elderly people don't eat regular meals, so they don't get the nutrition they need. - Photo by Jorc Navarro

Smokers

Smoking blocks absorption of a number of vitamins and other nutrients, folic acid and vitamin C being chief among them. When high doses of antioxidant vitamins are taken by smokers, however, they can actually be harmful This is especially true with beta-carotene. So instead of taking supplements, smokers should instead focus on having diets rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And it goes without saying that it would help to stop smoking. But some people just enjoy it way too much to quit, so at the very least extra attention should be paid to giving the body nutrition that will support it.

Alcoholics

Alcoholics often have many vitamin deficiencies. The most dangerous are deficiencies of vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamin), folic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). It's also important to address the problems that are causing you to drink. If you feel you have a substance abuse problem of any kind, check out this directory of drug rehab centers to find a resource that can help you heal.

Elderly adults

Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have been seen in almost one-third of the elderly, because they often don't eat regular, balanced meals. And, unfortunately, the diverse drugs that are often prescribed for older people help prevent absorption of some vitamins. Vitamin D deficiencies are common, particularly in those who don't get enough sunlight. The elderly also may have need for more vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Older adults showing signs of dementia should be checked for vitamin B12 deficiencies, as well as other disorders that cause mental disturbances.

One study reported that elderly immune systems may benefit from higher than usually recommended doses of vitamin E. But it's important to be aware that metabolism generally slows down as people age, so it can take longer to flush drugs and vitamins from the body. This means that the effect of some supplements may be intensified. For example, vitamin A levels harmless in a younger adult could end up being toxic in an elderly person. In spite of this, experts do recommend extra vitamins and minerals for older people.

Dieters and vegetarians

It's a good idea for people who eat fewer than 1,000 calories a day to take multivitamins. They should also check in with a physician regularly. If they don't eat dairy or meat, they may need riboflavin, vitamin D and vitamin B12 supplements. If they eat eggs and dairy products, they only have to watch their iron levels to guard against hair loss and other problems caused by iron deficiency.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women should make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals, but they shouldn't overdo it.  Photo by Marja Flick-Buijs
Pregnant and breast-feeding women should make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals, but they shouldn't overdo it. Photo by Marja Flick-Buijs

Nutrition Information from Amazon

Photo by Meliha Gojak
Photo by Meliha Gojak

Nutritional Supplements Poll

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Pregnant and breast-feeding women

There are so many things to do during pregnancy, some women may not realize that they need additional vitamins. The B vitamins are particularly important at this time of their lives. Folic acid reduces the risk for neural tube defects and facial abnormalities, such as cleft palate. Multivitamins also may protect from some congenital heart defects. To be effective, though, both multivitamins and folic acid should be taken before pregnancy. Before conception and during pregnancy, the RDA for folic acid is 400 mcg. A dosage of 260 and 280 mcg is recommended while breast-feeding though. Vitamin B6 can help with morning sickness, and choline (another B vitamin) is also important; 450 mg is recommended during pregnancy and 550 should be taken when breast-feeding.

Some pregnant women have low reserves of vitamin A, but supplementation to correct that can be a fine line, because too much vitamin A will significantly increase the potential for birth defects. Even amounts of 10,000 IU of vitamin A that are obtained daily through supplementation and food can be dangerous, even though that amount isn't too far above the RDA level. this is why experts recommend pregnant women don't exceed 8,000 IU of vitamin A every day and stay away from eating liver.

For more information on vitamins, read these in-depth fact sheets:

Know When to Say When

Can too much of a good thing be a bad thing? With some vitamin supplements, yes. Taking megadoses of certain vitamins can actually endanger your health by causing the following:

Vitamin A: blurred vision, headaches, fatigue, damage to liver and nervous system

Vitamin D: kidney stones, high blood pressure, deafness

Vitamin K: skin yellowing in infants

Vitamin B3 (Niacin): ulcers, abnormal liver function

Vitamin B6: high doses produce dependency

Vitamin C: high doses cause dependency, diarrhea

Please note: The information on this page is not meant to take the place of professional recommendations. See your doctor or a nutritionist to determine the supplements that are right for you.

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Comments 14 comments

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

good info, thanks


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 8 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

Thanks, Bob!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

As usual great information. I'm of two minds with taking any type of supplemwnts. If your diet is versatile and includes lots of veggies & fruit it should under normal circumstances be enough.

Great Hub regards Zsuzsy


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 8 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

Thanks for the compliments. And I agree with you about eating lots of fruits and veggies. Pill-popping shouldn't take the place of a healthy diet. Sometimes a little supplementation can do wonders though, depending on the situation. It's important to keep it all in balance.


jezzbb profile image

jezzbb 8 years ago from Philippines

I'm a smoker and I'd better take vitamin c supplements. Thanks for the info.


Superfoods RX Free Trials 7 years ago

Taking nutrition supplements and vitamins is very important to support our busy daily activities, thanks for the sharing.

Regards,

Sam


s whitt 7 years ago

Is it a deficiency of a certain vitamin when. It seems later in my life i seem to get anxcious and i feel my ears heating up and turning red,and like my blood pressure is rising just talking to people. What is this?? Is this a vitamin deficiency or maybe a medical problem.. Its gotten to where I dont even like talking to people because of this.


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

I can't be certain but it seems like there's an anxiety issue. Try slow, deep breaths when those symptoms happen and see if that helps. If it doesn't, I would advise a trip to a health food store to talk to someone there who is knowledgeable about vitamin deficiencies. A *good* practitioner of Chinese medicine (not all of them are good!) might also be able to help.


diane 7 years ago

why my both legs swallon everyday.


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

Hi, Diane. I advise that you do an Internet search for "natural relief for leg swelling" to see if you find any answers. If you don't, you might want to see a naturopath, an acupuncturist or a regular doctor.

Good luck with finding a solution. :-)


Susila Dewi 7 years ago

Very good article and useful. I found out that Vitamin E with higher level is very good for the elderly. Thanks


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

Thanks, Susila. I've been using vitamin E on my mother-in-law, who is battling bed sores. It's helping, so I totally agree with your comment.


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

Yes, I take vitamins and supplements. And I think most people should. Vitamin D and omega-3 is the most important ones to take. True, one has to be careful about vitamin A, as large doses of vitamin A can be toxic. But many other vitamins are quite safe.


WordPlay profile image

WordPlay 4 years ago from Georgia, y'all Author

Thanks for weighing in on this, BlissfulWriter. I like your HB username, BTW. :-)

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