How do Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Work?
Vitamin and mineral supplements are pills that contain vitamins (organic substances from plants or animals) and minerals (inorganic substances from the soil) that are essential to human health.
These supplements are available in prescription and over-the-counter. They are often recommended by doctors for certain people like the following:
- Pregnant and lactating women
- Women who have exceptionally heavy menstrual periods
- People on strict weight-loss diets
- People with chronic diseases like alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer
- People with AIDS or HIV virus
- People with specific deficiency disease such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) or rickets (vitamin D deficiency).
Since vitamins and minerals are nutrients, most people do not think of them as drugs or medications. As with any drug, taking high doses carry risks of adverse reactions which can be fatal.
In the body, vitamins and minerals carry out a number of vital functions. B vitamins are essential components of enzymes (molecules) that complete chemical reactions on the cellular level. Vitamin D helps form hormones essential for reproduction and proper metabolism. Potassium, sodium, or chloride are electrolytes (minerals) to maintain the body’s fluid and chemical balance.
A varied diet that includes food from the basic four groups (meat, fish, and other high protein food; milk and dairy products; fruits and vegetables; and bread, cereals, and other starches) provides all the essential vitamins and minerals. Some doctors recommend vitamin and mineral supplements as a precaution for people with erratic eating habits.
Nowadays, instead of vitamin and mineral supplements, some health-food stores and other promoters of nutritional products recommend a variety of natural remedies using herbs or teas which also provide some vitamins and minerals.
It is suggested that before taking any nutritional supplement, a person should talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian. A balanced diet is still the safest and best means of assuring good and proper nutrition.