In 2012, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published a study called the Examination of Vitamin Intakes Among US Adults by Dietary Supplement Use.
Contrast Supplements to No Supplements!
In the study, those who were not taking any supplements at all showed the following results:
- 96% inadequate in vitamin D
- 48% inadequate in vitamin C
- 96% inadequate in vitamin D
- 58% inadequate in vitamin A
In that same study, those who took some form of supplement showed the following results:
- 25% inadequate in vitamin D
- 3% inadequate in vitamin C
- 5% inadequate in vitamin D
- 2% inadequate in vitamin A
That’s a pretty startling contrast. I want to talk about the study today because there is still controversy among some physicians and other health practitioners about the use of vitamin supplements – often because they’re not aware of more recent research. Also, many strongly believe that individuals “should” get their vitamins and minerals from food, and while that’s good in theory…
A USDA government survey of 21,500 people found that not one single person consumed 100% of the U.S. RDA (recommended daily allowance) from the foods they ate.
The American Medical Association Now Recommends Vitamins
Until recently, even the American Medical Association (AMA) was hesitant to routinely recommend vitamin supplements except in specific cases such as pregnancy and to treat specific diagnosed nutritional deficiencies. However the AMA recently reversed this traditional stance, and now advises all adults to take at least one multivitamin pill each day.
20 years ago, the AMA stated that most people could obtain adequate amounts of nutrients from their diet. You’ll still hear that phrase from many people, unfortunately.
What the New Vitamin Experts Say
In a recent review, doctors Fletcher and Fairfield of Harvard University (who wrote the new guidelines published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) stated that “most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone.” They added, “sub optimal intake of some vitamins, above levels causing classical vitamin deficiency, is a risk factor for chronic diseases and common in the general population, especially the elderly.” They stated, “it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.”
This certainly doesn’t mean that all supplements are appropriate for all subgroups of the population. For example, while iron may benefit administrating woman, it is generally not advisable for adult men and non-menstruating women. Certain supplements need to be avoided (or increased) during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester.
Don’t Forget Vitamin D
In an ideal world, we’d all eat an extremely healthy diet and get our vitamins and minerals from food, rather than supplements. Practically that can be extremely hard, especially for those who are cutting calories. Even on an ideal diet, most people would still fail to get enough vitamin D. Here in Hawaii we have a better climate than many do for achieving ideal levels of vitamin D from sunshine, but those in northern climates really can’t achieve adequate levels of vitamin D without supplementation, particularly during the winter months.
The best advice today is to take a daily multivitamin. If you can, find one that contains 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D. If it only contains 400 IU of vitamin D, which is common, consider taking a separate vitamin D supplement also. If you have darker skin, spend winters at higher latitudes, or spend little time in the sun, you may want to take 2000 IU per day or more of vitamin D.
Take a Good Daily Multivitamin
Where you can, choose natural, food-sourced vitamins and avoid synthetic forms. Avoid supplements containing magnesium stearate, as regular consumption of it has been shown to potentially cause digestive problems. Another common vitamin additive to avoid is titanium dioxide, which serves no therapeutic purpose and has been linked to health risks. In addition, avoid vitamins containing artificial colors.
Always ensure your doctor knows about vitamin supplements that you are taking.
Nutrients and Weight Loss
I’ve written before about key nutrients you may be missing, such as magnesium. Nutritional deficiencies can block your weight loss, particularly as they may cause cravings that drive you to eat more. Losing weight and getting healthy go hand in hand, and for both, you need good nutrition with adequate levels of vitamins and minerals.