Do Vitamins and Minerals Qualify as Supplements?

People often refer to vitamins and minerals by many names, including multivitamins and multiminerals or simply vitamins. Each of the vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement plays a unique role in the body. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that the body needs in small amounts to function properly and stay healthy. If you're a vegetarian, you'll need to carefully plan a diet that includes the vitamins and minerals you need. When you artificially eliminate one of them and provide it completely out of context, it may not be as effective and, in the case of some vitamins, it may have negative effects.

However, some people who don't get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone, or who have certain medical conditions, may benefit from taking one or more of these nutrients found in single-nutrient supplements or in MVMs. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can also be found in some fortified foods, such as breads and breakfast cereals. While there is no consensus that the use of MVM by the general population benefits overall health or prevents chronic diseases, these supplements are generally considered safe in healthy people. Currently, more than one-third of American adults age 20 and older are overweight and another third are classified as obese (1). This means that many Americans exceed energy requirements (calories) but do not meet micronutrient recommendations, presumably due to excessive consumption of energy-rich and nutrient-poor foods.

Research shows that most of the vitamins you get from the foods you eat are better than those contained in pills. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help strengthen bones, and fiber can help maintain bowel regularity. Vitamin and mineral supplements can also interfere with prescription medications and medical treatments. In addition, children should not receive an MVM supplement that contains more retinol than the recommended daily dose for their age group (see table 1 of the vitamin A article). It is commonly believed that taking megadoses of certain vitamins acts as a medication to cure or prevent certain ailments.

Many people mistakenly believe that because small amounts of vitamins are good for your health, larger amounts should be better. If you think you may be lacking certain vitamins and minerals, it may be best to change your diet and lifestyle instead of going for supplements. Feeling under pressure doesn't automatically lead to a vitamin deficiency, so taking a vitamin supplement won't necessarily make feelings of stress go away. Vitamins and minerals are essential components of any balanced diet. While they can be found naturally in many foods, some people may benefit from taking them as supplements.

However, it's important to remember that supplements should never replace a healthy diet. Additionally, it's important to consult with your doctor before taking any type of supplement to ensure it won't interfere with any medications or treatments you're currently taking.

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