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Four Key Messages from the Latest Data on Vitamins and Supplements

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Although most Americans get plenty of calories each day, many do not consume optimal amounts of the essential nutrients. From low vitamin D status to inadequate intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, Americans are lacking in many critically important and essential nutrients.

The take-home messages from the latest data on vitamins and supplements:

Supplements should not be relied upon as a substitute for eating healthfully: No regimen of supplements can make up for a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. On the other hand, a few highly effective and safe nutritional supplements can make a positive impact on health, well-being and longevity when used in conjunction with our recommendations about diet and lifestyle.

Taking vitamins in high doses can be harmful: In general you want to avoid multivitamins with mega-doses. More is usually not better. These unnaturally high doses have not been shown to improve cardio health and longevity and in some cases, like high dose vitamin E (above 400 IU per day), they may be harmful. Look for a “multi” with about 100% of the Daily Value for most of the essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin D appears to be beneficial: In my experience, at least half of American adults have blood levels of vitamin D that are deficient, and this compromises their cardio-health and predisposes them to a host of other problems. Adequate vitamin D usage promotes healthy blood pressure, healthy glucose levels, and supports a healthy immune system. Most adults need at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 or vitamin D2 to just get their vitamin D levels into the low-normal range.

Avoid iron supplements unless you are low in iron. Iron can be toxic when it accumulates in the body. Menstruating women may need an iron supplement, but most other healthy individuals do not.

When used as recommended by your physician and in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle, the effects of health supplements and vitamins can be quite positive and quite impressive. I feel Duffy MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition put it nicely when he said, “Most people cannot get all the needed nutrients from diet alone in the real world.” Supplements are needed when you fall short of ideal nutrition.

In Good Health,

James and Joan O'Keefe

Photo Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons