Vitamins and Supplements

The following information concerns the effectiveness of various popular vitamins and supplements.

  • Multivitamins: While some nutritionists feel the average American receives enough vitamins and minerals from food, some studies have revealed dietary deficits. Therefore, it is prudent to take a multivitamin supplement that contains at least the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of each vitamin. The following are the RDA levels issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture FOR MEN OVER AGE 18 ONLY:

    • biotin - 30 μg
    • choline - 550 mg
    • folic acid (folate) - 400 μg
    • niacin (nicotinic acid) - 16 mg
    • pantothenic acid - 5 mg
    • riboflavin (B2) - 1.3 mg
    • thiamin (B1) - 1.2 mg
    • vitamin A - 900 μg
    • vitamin B6 - /up to age 50: 1.3 mg/ over age 50: 1.7 mg/
    • vitamin B12 - 2.4 μg
    • vitamin C - 90 mg
    • vitamin D - /up to age 50: 5 μg or 200 IU/ age 50-70: 10 μg or 400 IU/ over age 70: 15 μg or 600 IU
    • vitamin E (α-tocopherol) - 15 mg
    • vitamin K - 120 μg

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D promotes the uptake of calcium in the body, and a lack of vitamin D has recently been found to increase the risk of various forms of cancer and infection. We naturally get vitamin D from sunlight falling on exposed skin, and fatty fish is the only significant natural food source. Commercially distributed milk has been fortified with vitamin D to avoid deficiency disease. Yet many of us may not get enough vitamin D because adults often don’t drink much milk, fewer people work outdoors, we are encouraged to apply sunscreen, and northern latitudes do not receive enough solar radiation during the winter to produce a significant amount of vitamin D via skin contact. Therefore, recent recommendations for vitamin D supplementation have been as high as 1,000 IU per day, especially for people who get little exposure to the sun and drink little milk.

  • Fish oil: There is increasing evidence that fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is beneficial to health, particularly heart health. Thus, people who do not eat fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, or mackerel twice a week may consider adding fish oil to their list of vitamins and supplements. But anyone who has any problem with blood clotting or who is on anti-clotting medication should consult their physician first. It is advisable to get a brand of fish oil that states it is purified because pollutants tend to collect in the fatty tissue of fish. Also, tests on tuna, especially albacore (solid white) tuna, have often shown high mercury levels. So, tuna should not be eaten in excess and chunk light tuna should be the preferred variety.

  • Antioxidants: Despite being touted as antidotes to disease and aging, there is little evidence that antioxidant supplements are beneficial to the health. Some evidence actually exists that supplemental antioxidants may actually increase the resistance of cancer cells to treatment. In contrast, eating generous amounts of fruits and vegetables, which contain large amounts of natural antioxidants, is associated with better health and resistance to disease. So, it is best to get antioxidants in their natural form.

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