Can vitamin and mineral dietary supplements actually enhance well being?

If you cannot meet your nutritional requirements from food, supplements may be a solution. But are they effective?ljubaphoto / iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The basis is clear that eating a healthy diet helps protect against chronic disease.

Studies have consistently found that a diet based on vegetables and fruits, cerealsa variety of proteins and healthy fats have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer and some cancers.

However, if your diet is less, you may be inclined to take a daily vitamin supplement to protect your long-term health.

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If that’s the case, an up-to-date evidence review shows you’re wasting your money.

Here’s what to know about vitamin and mineral supplements.

Additional guidelines updated

To update the 2014 supplemental recommendation statement, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) commissioned an independent expert panel to review 84 studies, including 52 newly published studies. since 2014.

Researchers sought to determine if a single nutrient supplement (eg, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin E) was combined with a nutrient supplement (eg, calcium + vitamin D, acid folic + B12) or multivitamins reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer or premature death.

According to new USPSTF guidelines, published June 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is no evidence that multivitamins, single supplements, or combined supplements help prevent disease. cardiovascular disease or cancer in healthy adults who are not pregnant.

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For most of the supplements reviewed, there was little or no evidence of serious harm.

However, the USPSTF strongly recommends against taking beta-carotene supplements because of possible increased risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular death. The updated guidelines also advise against taking vitamin E, perhaps because vitamin E supplements are not beneficial in protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, or early death.

These findings are not surprising to me.

Whole foods containing mixtures vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients, dietary components are thought to work together to provide health benefits. This network of beneficial compounds does not exist in isolated vitamin and mineral drugs.

However, this does not mean that nutritional supplements are useless. In the right circumstances, they can offer benefits.

When Supplements Help

While I recommend trying to meet your daily nutritional needs from whole foods, in some cases this is not always possible.

Several supplements are helpful for bridging the nutritional gap in the diet. They are also necessary for treatment vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Women who are planning to become pregnant or may become pregnant should take a daily multivitamin that provides 0.4 mg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, birth defects that affect the brain and spinal cord.

If you follow a vegan diet, take a multivitamin and mineral supplements are an important way for you to get your daily iodine, a mineral found in milk and seafood, needed to make thyroid hormones, as well as vitamin B12.

Natural B12 is only found in animal foods. It is needed to maintain healthy nerve function and make red blood cells and DNA.

Vegetarian or not, adults over age 50 should get most of their daily B12 intake from supplements, such as multivitamins or B-complexes, or fortified foods. That’s because many older people don’t produce enough stomach (stomach) acid needed to absorb B12 from food.

I also recommend a daily multivitamin for people taking medications that can reduce the absorption of vitamin B12 from the diet (eg, stomach acid suppressants and Metformin).

If you follow a low-calorie diet to weight loss Or you eat an overly restrictive diet, multivitamin and mineral supplements can provide some of the nutrients.

Daily vitamin D supplementation is necessary to maintain adequate blood levels of the vitamin. Osteoporosis Canada recommends vitamin D supplements for adults year-round because it’s nearly impossible to get enough nutrients from food alone.

Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption, bone health, and muscle function and balance.

Key point

Vitamin supplements are generally considered completely benign. However, that’s not always the case. When taken in high doses, many nutrients can have side effects.

For example, in moderate doses vitamin A can reduce bone density and high doses can be toxic to the liver. Taking too much iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as an iodine deficiency, including an enlarged thyroid gland (for example, a goiter).

Too much zinc can lead to consequences such as impaired immune function, decreased levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headaches, and abdominal pain.

To supplement appropriately and safely, consult your healthcare provider.

Leslie Beck, a private practice dietitian based in Toronto, is the director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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