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Harvard Commentaries
35320
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Who Needs Supplements?


September 09, 2013

Nutrition
325
Vitamins
Who Needs Supplements?
Who Needs Supplements?
htmJHENutrition.34069
Certain people benefit from taking supplements. Are you one of them?
34069
InteliHealth
2009-02-02
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2011-02-02

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

If you are on a special diet or concerned about insufficient intake of micronutrients, you might benefit from taking one multiple vitamin per day. For a few pennies per day, a multivitamin provides added insurance that you are getting adequate intake of necessary vitamins and minerals. To avoid indigestion, take the multivitamin with food.

Women may need extra calcium and iron. Try to get your all of your calcium from dietary sources. But if you can’t, consider taking a 500-milligram supplement daily. These are inexpensive and easy to take. Calcium supplements are best absorbed when taken with meals. Women who bleed excessively during menstruation may need to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains iron to meet the daily recommendation of 15 milligrams. Pregnant and lactating women are usually given supplements by their doctors to meet their increased needs for iron and other nutrient.

Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should take a folic acid supplement before conception. This decreases the risk of the baby developing neurological problems, such as spina bifida. Because pregnancy is often not planned, ideally you should start taking folic acid when you become sexually active. A standard multiple vitamin contains 400 micrograms of folic acid. This is sufficient for most women.

Teenagers often have irregular eating habits and may not eat a balanced diet. A multivitamin with minerals can help fill in the nutritional gaps. Some teenage girls also need a daily calcium supplement.

Vegetarians are advised to take a multivitamin with iron and other minerals each day. Iron and B12 deficiency occur frequently in strict vegetarians.

Dieters and people who avoid entire food groups are more likely to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A daily generic multivitamin with minerals should be considered.

People with deficiency diseases or absorption disorders may need therapeutic doses of nutrients (two to 10 times the Recommended Dietary Intake) prescribed by a doctor. People taking prescription medications that interfere with the absorption of nutrients may also need higher dose supplements, as will those who abuse alcohol or drugs.

 

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