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Vitamin Supplements: Are They Necessary?

Updated on October 19, 2011

During the past few decades, the necessity of taking daily vitamin supplements has been a popular topic of discussion among nutrionists and others in the medical field. The big question is: are they necessary? Yes. It is necessary to take daily vitamin supplements in order to maintain a healthy body. However, simply taking vitamin supplements is not enough. It is still necessary to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. This paper will discuss the reasons why it is necessary to take daily vitamin supplements, the pros and cons of multi-vitamin and single-supplement pills, and choosing the right vitamin supplement(s) for you.

Why is it necessary to take daily vitamin supplements?

There are many different reasons, but this paper will only discuss the three main reasons. First, they can be used to combat dietary deficiencies. The majority of Americans do not meet their minimum daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. There are many reasons for this including poor food choices and the simple fact that the “food has changed” (Scheer 50). That is, there have been drastic food processing and technological changes during the past one hundred years. For example, since the “invention” of white bread, people have stopped consuming as much whole grain breads. Even people that strive to eat healthy foods may not be getting enough of the vitamins they need because some of the soils that plants are grown in are mineral deficient, resulting in diminished vitamins (51). Also, in the winter most people don’t get enough Vitamin D because there is less sunlight (Sharpe 107). By taking supplements, a person can not only make sure that their body is getting what it needs (Wise 51), but also “fill in the gaps” for meals incomplete in vitamins and minerals (Scheer 50). Second, vitamin supplements can be used to compliment a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is hard to get enough of some of the vitamins the body needs from food alone. For example, the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for Vitamin E per day is 100 IU (international units), but it is nearly impossible to get this much without the help of vitamin supplements (Ulene 13). At the same time, supplements alone are not enough-- diet and exercise are equally important. They should be used to compliment healthy habits, but not to compensate for poor eating and a sedentary lifestyle (14). And third, vitamin supplements can be used to prevent disease and promote health. Studies have shown that taking vitamins helps to strengthen the immune system (Howe 69) and to reduce the risk of many diseases (Wise 52).

We have established the importance of taking daily vitamin supplements, however, which is better multi-vitamins or single supplements? What’s the difference between them?

Put simply, the term “multi-vitamin” usually refers to a pill that contains the “basic” vitamins that the human body needs on a daily basis, and “single supplement” refers to a pill that contains only one vitamin or mineral. There are pros and cons of each, but neither one is really better than the other. It really depends on the individual person and their particular dietary needs. The pros of multi-vitamins are that there is just one pill to take and that the ingredients are blended to work well together-- for maximum absorbability and effectiveness (Scheer 47). The cons are the many assumptions that people make. For example, people think that since they took a multi-vitamin that they are covered, but what they don’t realize is that not all multi’s have all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients (Sheer 50), or that you can’t get everything that the body needs from a pill (Sharpe 106). Many people also assume that “one size fits all” (Sheer 49). It is extremely important to choose the multi-vitamin that is best for each person’s individual needs. In addition, many people are unaware that if they consume too much of nearly any vitamin there are negative consequences. For example, taking too much iron can cause oxidation and artery damage (Sharpe 109). On the other hand, the pros of taking a single-supplement are that if a person is aware that their diet is low in one particular vitamin or nutrient they can take supplements to adjust for this. The cons of single supplements once again are the assumptions that people make. For example, a person may not like milk so they decide to take calcium supplements. What they don’t realize is that milk also contains magnesium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D. By only taking the calcium supplement alone their diet may still be low in the others (Sharpe 109).

The majority of people choose to take a multi-vitamin rather than single supplements. However, it is important to remember that all multi-vitamins were not created equal. Initially the only multi-vitamins that were sold were “one size fits all,” but recently companies have been developing more “custom fit” vitamins (Scheer 49). These “custom fit” vitamins are formulated with a particular group of people’s needs in mind. For example, there are now women’s, men’s, and children’s formulas on the market. The most common women’s formulas are “for pre-menopausal woman [and are] designed mainly to cope with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).” The men’s formulas are “designed to guard against prostatitis, inflamed and enlarged prostate gland, and prostate cancer.” And the children’s formulas are usually chewable, in fun shapes, and sweetened with fruit juice (50). There have also been multi-vitamins developed to combat particular medical problems and issues. These include heart-health and brain-boosting formulas (50). Read the labels carefully to find the one that most closely meets your individual needs. In addition, ensure that you meet, but do not exceedyour RDA’s (recommended dietary allowances) (Sharp 108).

In conclusion, trying to maintain a healthy diet (and lifestyle) can be confusing. The simplest method for doing so is to simply make an effort to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. By including daily vitamin supplements in your diet, you will be giving yourself additional insurance against dietary deficiencies and disease.

List of Works Cited

Howe, D. K., (2003), “Sound Off for Supplements.” American Fitness, 21:2, 69.

Scheer, James F., (1998), “Multi-Vitamins.” Better Nutrition, 60:12, 47-50.

Sharp, David., (1997), “Multi-Vitamins.” Health, 11:2, 106-109.

Ulene, Art., (1998) “Vitamins for Vitality.” American Fitness, 16:4, 13-14.

Wise, John A., and Robert O. Voy., (2000) “The Science of Supplementation.” American Fitness, 18:1, 51-55.

Do you take vitamin supplements?

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    • anuaria profile image

      anuaria 5 years ago

      Great..I was amazed with ur infomation that we also need vitamin from vegetable

    • profile image

      icountthetimes 6 years ago

      I take a Multivitamin, vitamin D and Omega 3. I'm not one of these take anything under the sun type people, but on te flipside I certainly do think there's value in taking the right supplements for you.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Oh, and I also agree about the medicines that doctors prescribe. Most of them have harsh side effects. I prefer to simply take vitamins or use natural cures whenever possible. There are some great books out there that talk about common cooking ingredients that have medicinal purposes (ie: vinegar, baking soda paste for bug bites, etc).

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      I've heard good things about apple cider vinegar. I also take an extra D vitamin to help with my bone pain/arthritis symptoms. I know it helps because I can really feel the difference on the days I forget to take it!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks for stopping by my "Wall Street" article. Yes, I take suppliments. As for taking single suppliments or multi, I believe it is important to take a good multi. However, additional suppliments can be of use for varying ailments. For example, my husband has gotton Bell's Palsy simptoms twice. After the first time I read that additional B vitamins would be a help. At one point I ran out and forgot to get more. A few months later he had another attack. So, now I don't ever forget to keep extras on hand. Oh yeah, if anyone has problems with gout, as my husband also does, try raw apple cider vinagar ( a teaspoon in a cup of water a few times a week) or black cherry juice. It works and is much better for you than the harsh medication the doctor prescribes.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Exactly! My doctor told me that my plate hsould always have a lot of color on it. But, she also said that vitamin supplements are a good way to make sure that you get enough vitamins and minerals on a regular basis. It can be hard to get enough from our diet alone.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I've been taking a One-A-Day Vitamin and a Vitamin E capsule for many years. Mostly out of habit. You are correct it's more important to eat the right foods to get the vitamins you need. Colors of the rainbow is the best variety :)

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 6 years ago from New Jersey

      I have been taking a Centrum vitamin supplement for many years. However, people need to keep in mind that popular vitamin supplements only provide the recommended dietary allowance that the government recommends. If you look into various vitamins and minerals, there is a lot of reasearch that supports taking more than the recommended dietary allowance for many of them. For example, many studies in recent years have found that to really receive the positive effects of taking Vitamin D supplements, you need to take a lot more than the 600 IU recommended dietary allowance, more like 3,000 to 4,000 IU. I wrote a Hub called "Is Vitamin D The Real Wonder Drug" for those interested in learning more about why higher intake levels of Vitamin D are a good thing.

    • Marlin 55 profile image

      Marlin 55 6 years ago from USA

      Great article and I agree with Hyphenbird. eat lost of living foods that are rich in electrons and charge the body with energy. And of course drink plenty of water and exercise.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Thank you for reading! I agree completely-- I think the FDA should regulate everything consumable on the market. It seems like so many items are sold for years before anyone realizes the negative health impact that they can have on people.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You have a fine article here. I take one multi-vitamin every day and that is all. I do believe in eating as natural as possible and avoiding processed foods.

    • slmorgan profile image

      slmorgan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Vitamins are a good idea. one day, I hope the government(FDA) will regulate vitamins as well they do food. I really like the poll at the end.