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Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit

Nutrition - Vitamin & Mineral Supplements

We need many essential vitamins and minerals every day. Each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in the body, and all the vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health. But…is more better? Who needs to take supplements? Are there negative effects if vitamins and minerals are taken in very high doses? Well, here's the scoop.

The general healthy population does not need vitamin and mineral supplements. Supplements can be taken as pills, powders and liquids. These are not necessary to achieve or maintain good health. The best way to achieve health and get all essential nutrients is by eating a diet containing a variety of foods. A diet that includes vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, lower fat dairy products and meat and alternatives will provide a person with all of the vitamins and minerals they need for their body to work well.

Who Should Use Supplements?

Canada’s Food Guide recommends everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10mg (400IU). Supplements may also be required by certain groups of people who have special dietary concerns. Strict vegetarians may need a supplement containing vitamins B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc if no animal products (milk, meats, eggs, cheeses) are eaten. Individuals with specific food allergies may also need a supplement. For example, someone with a milk allergy or who is lactose intolerant will likely need a calcium supplement. Women of childbearing age need to take a supplement containing 0.4 mg of folic acid together with a diet rich in foods containing folate to prevent birth defects. Pregnant women may need to take a prenatal multi-vitamin supplement if nutritional intake is inadequate. Older adults may also need a multi-vitamin supplement if a poor diet is consumed or if they are unable to eat certain foods. Individuals recovering from surgery or who have specific medical conditions may require a vitamin and mineral supplement to aid in recovery.




Side Effects


Taking unnecessary supplements can upset the body's nutrient balance and may even interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. For example, supplements with extremely high calcium can interfere with the body's absorption of iron, zinc, and manganese. Taking too much zinc can interfere with iron and copper absorption. Some vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, & K, can build up in the body's tissues and cause illness when they are taken in high amounts in a supplement. 




Benefits of Food


Foods have many benefits that supplements do not have. One big advantage of relying on foods rather than supplements is that the body absorbs nutrients best from foods. Vitamins and minerals in food are naturally balanced in a way that allows easy absorption and use by the body. Another advantage is, in addition to vitamins and minerals, foods contain many other valuable substances. For example, some foods contain fibre, which helps prevent certain types of cancer. Bacterial culture in yogurt helps keep the bowels in good working order. Although some of these things can be taken as a supplement, foods have a good balance of all essential nutrients that work together to support overall good health.

 

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Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
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