Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Should we take vitamin supplements?

Photo credit: Medical News Today
During conversations with family members and friends, whenever the topic of vitamins comes in, invariably the issue of supplements also crops up. There is always one group which says that there is no harm in having supplements, and there is the other group which argues that there is no need to.

WHAT ARE VITAMINS

Vitamins are needed for metabolism (the process in our body that involves breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients for our growth and energy).

Our body does not produce it (unlike dogs that can synthesize enough vitamin C). So we need to get it from food or from vitamin tablets.

If our body doesn't have enough amount of vitamins it can result in medical conditions.

TYPES OF VITAMINS

There are 13 vitamins, each needed in different amounts for different reasons.

Some vitamins dissolve in water, some in fat.

Water-soluble ones are: all B vitamins and vitamin C.

Fat-soluble ones are: A, D, E and K.

Fat-soluble vitamins can stay in the body: they get stored in the fatty tissues for use later.

Water-soluble vitamins don't stay in the body: they go out via urine.

VITAMINS IN FOOD

Vegetables and meat have different vitamins in different quantities. So, if we have a well-balanced, varied diet we will get all the required vitamins in the required quantites.

Usually we take it for granted that the food we eat has enough vitamins, and there is nothing to worry. Only when some medical condition surfaces, our physician would say that there are symptoms of deficiency.

Vitamins are sensitive to heat and water. Cooking reduces the amount of vitamins. Water-soluble ones get lost in water, and fat-soluble ones in oil.

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS

We can get our vitamins from syrups and tablets. We need to take them when we have a medical deficiency of vitamins or in cases like pregnancy when our body does need enhanced levels of vitamins. Doctors will recommend the dosage.

DO WE GET ENOUGH FROM FOOD?

Anything cooked in high temperature or for too long will have less vitamins.

It is lost in water and oil. One way to salvage a bit of it is to consume the water that has been used for cooking. That is why some people suggest to cook in less water and not to drain away the water after cooking.

Cooking in microwave might be better than boiling from the vitamin standpoint.

Raw vegetables are good, but run the risk of presence of pollutants and lack of hygiene.

SHOULD WE EAT SUPPLEMENTS?

Supplements are not substitutes for the vitamins that we get through food.

 They can just make up any shortfall if any. So, our primary source of vitamins has to be food. But since while cooking lot of vitamins get lost, there is a case for having supplements.

Without any lab tests or visible symptoms one can't conclude that there is a deficiency and therefore a need for supplements.

Excess of fat-soluble vitamins can turn toxic, and therefore harmful, since they get stored in the body.

We tend to fall short of water-soluble vitamins since they don't stay in the body. Also, vitamins like C easily get lost while cooking. So, if at all one is looking at supplements, then it's water solubles ones that need replenishing.

All said and done, vitamin supplements are not a guarantor of good health. They are not magic pills.

HOW MUCH VITAMINS WE NEED

We need vitamins in small quantities. But we need them always. This table in the WebMD website lists out the required and maximum dosage for vitamins and minerals.

It would advisable to consult a doctor on how much of supplement we should take and in what frequency.

MY TAKE

As advised by my physician, I do have vitamin and mineral supplements, of low dosage, at wide intervals, just to make up for any possible deficiency.

REFERENCES

Vitamins: What are they and what do they do?

Nutritional Effects of Food Processing

Cooking and Vitamin and Mineral Loss

Studies Show Little Benefit in Supplements

Which Supplements, if Any, May Be Worth Your Money

The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food

Vitamins and Minerals: How Much Should You Take?

18 comments:

  1. I don't think I ever heard about the fat-soluble versus water-soluble ones before. Good information.

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    1. Thanks, Oneil. The water soluble vitamins need constant replenishing.

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  2. This is helpful information and I like the way you presented it. I agree that some type of supplement is beneficial for us, particularly as we age.

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    1. Thanks, Candi. Yes, there is nothing wrong in taking the supplements, as long as we don't overdo it.

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  3. Hi Pradeep - having been very fortunate to have had all my early food off the land, and have always tried to buy fresh produce ... and eat a varied diet ... get lots of exercise - I don't worry ... but as the others have said - well set out for us - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, yes, good food and exercise will take care of most of the problems.

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  4. I take vitamin supplements as a complement to my balanced diet.

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  5. In college I had a health teacher say that supplements aren't necessarily helpful. That is, the body doesn't actually process them--they are just excreted out. I suppose it would depend on the kind of supplement, though. A bit of a boost in a smoothie would be better than a pill.

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    1. Yes, Liz, it depends on what you have. Thanks.

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  6. I take a multi-vitamin occasionally to top up anything that might be getting low. As far as I can figure, if we eat a healthy, well balanced diet then we're getting all the vitamins and minerals we need and taking more just means we excrete it - still, topping up occasionally doesn't do any harm.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I've shared this on my SM
    Leanne | Cresting the Hill

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    1. Thanks, Leanne. Yes, nothing wrong in having supplements as long as we don't overdo it.

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  7. This is something I often wonder about. I take a multi vitamin and Vit C. Never sure if a varied and healthy diet is enough. Thanks for this info

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    1. Yes, Jennifer. Even I think regular food needs to be supplemented, at least to a limited extent.

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  8. I have only recently started taking supplements such as Glucosamine (because I do long distance running), a Multi-Vitamin and a probiotic. I agree you need to eat well and not over cook your food but sometimes we just need that little extra. Thanks for the information and linking up with us at #MLSTL. Have a great week!

    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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  9. Nice information Pradeep,I don't take any supplements except calcium.

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