Should I take vitamins?

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In an ideal world, we’d get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our food and environment. You may feel that your diet needs a multivitamin to fill in the gaps.
Vitamins and minerals help our bodies function properly. Each has its own job to do. Vitamin D contributes to strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D also helps our muscles move and our nerves carry information throughout our bodies.

What do vitamins and minerals do for our bodies?

Different amounts of each vitamin and mineral are recommended in a person’s daily diet. The average person only needs small daily amounts of iodine and fluoride. In comparison, we need more of the mineral calcium. Because of bone density loss as we age, we typically need to increase our daily dose over time.

How do I choose from all the options on store shelves?

Look for “USP Verified” on the label. That refers to the testing organization U.S. Pharmacopeia, which makes sure the vitamins contain the ingredients they list on the label. Other quality labels to look for are: “Independently NSF Certified” and “CL Approved Quality.” These labels confirm that what you see is what you get.

The Mayo Clinic also advises:

  1. Make sure the package hasn’t passed its expiration date – old vitamins lose strength.
  2. Don’t pay for empty “extras” like added herbs, enzymes and amino acids.
  3. Don’t take high-doses that can build up toxic levels in your body – stick to 100% of the daily value.

Are gummy, liquid or powdered vitamins as effective as pills?

We found no definitive answer to this. Even some tablets or capsules have been found to have poor absorption, preventing them from delivering the vitamins you need.

Easier to chew, swallowFour out of five gummy vitamins tested in 2017 failed an independent quality test; risk of over-consuming, and include extra sugars
Better immediate absorption and easier to swallowLess precise and may require refrigeration; not good for time-delayed absorption
Good for those with digestion troubles; better immediate absorptionLess precise and not good for time-delayed absorption

When is the right time of the day to take a multivitamin?

When you’re most likely to remember to. Taking them with a meal may help prevent stomach upset or nausea. Mealtimes are also best because some vitamins are better absorbed when taken with fats or oils. Choose the meal that contains the most fats and oils during your day and take your multivitamin then. Taking vitamins after exercising can prevent heartburn or reflux problems.
If you’re taking vitamins and minerals separately, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about when and with what to take them. Many need to be taken at intervals to be most helpful.
If you take a multivitamin that includes B12, and a supplemental B12 vitamin, separate them by at least six hours. Your body can only absorb a small amount of B12 at a time and you’ll miss out on the benefits if you take them at the same time.

Which vitamin fads or trends should I avoid?

Every day we’re bombarded with new fad diets or foody trends that may not have anything to do with practical health benefits. Here are a few related to vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin-enhanced water: the amount of nutrients in these waters aren’t high enough to make a dent in your daily requirements. They may also contain added sugars that push you over your daily recommended limits.
  • Fad diets: some of these may not cover the recommended daily nutrients your body needs to function well. Children following fad diets may be at higher risk of missing Vitamin D in their diet.
  • False claims: in the last decade the Federal Trade Commission has filed 120 cases challenging health claims made by supplement companies. Some of these were marketed as “all-natural” and “award-winning,” and claim to improve health or have other benefits that are unproven.

Please note, these are general guidelines. Always follow a doctor or pharmacist’s guidance designed to address your individual needs.