If you’re interested in health and nutrition, you can’t fail to have noticed the ongoing debate about the usefulness – and even possible risks – of taking vitamins and other supplements. But there’s so much contradictory information swirling around it’s difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t take.
Well, we haven’t got the answer. If we had, there’d be no debate. But there are definitely plenty of things you can do to help make an informed decision about whether to take them and what to take.
First off, let’s be clear that you should always speak to a professional before making decisions about your health and nutrition. With that in mind, here are some points to know and think about when you’re weighing things up:
- Having routine and regular bloodwork done will identify anydeficiency in essential elements like iron and zinc. Specific tests can also be ordered for presence of certain vitamins like B12, a deficiency of which was recently claimed to be a factor in dementia and depression (for more on this, see http://tinyurl.com/B12-vits).
- We certainly need many vitamins and other important nutrients but the best, most effective and potentially least risky sources are those that come from natural foods, especially fruits and leafy green vegetables. Sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D.
- Though always the subject of research, the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs) or Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) as they’re now being called are publicly available. The Institute of Medicine produces downloadable tables which you can access via the US Department of Agriculture at http://tinyurl.com/dri-tables.
- Everybody (meaning every body) has different needs. Key factors that make a difference include your gender, your general state of health and your age. Only a physician or nutritionist can advise you on this.
- Excessive amounts of some vitamins, such as A, C and D (but not from sunshine) can cause mild to serious problems. So can too much iron.
Final word to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your health care provider to determine how best to achieve optimal health and always check with your health care provider before taking a supplement, especially when combining or substituting them with other foods or medicine.” Visit http://ods.od.nih.gov/ for more on dietary supplements.