Do you need to take supplements if you eat a healthy diet?

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter

Health Day

MONDAY, March 25, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Vitamin supplements are big business, with Americans spending roughly $45 billion of the more than $177 billion worldwide on pills, gummies and powders aimed at to improve health.

About 59 million Americans regularly use some type of vitamin or supplement, spending an average of $510 each year.

But most people are wasting that money, experts say.

A balanced daily diet provides all the nutrients a person normally needs to maintain health, said Dr. Matthew Silvis, vice president of clinical operations for Family and Community Medicine at Penn State Health.

If you have a balanced diet and can eat nutritious foods, fruits, vegetables, etc., you don’t need a multivitamin or supplement, Silvis said in a news release.

The general answer is that most people don’t need them, despite the multibillion-dollar industry that is the vitamin industry, he continued. But there are populations of individuals who need to consider a multivitamin or supplement. And this is individualized.

Examples of people who need specific supplements include:

  • Pregnant women who need folic acid to prevent birth defects.

  • Older people with osteoporosis who may benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements.

  • Vegans or people with celiac disease who need a multivitamin to supplement the nutrients they don’t absorb from their diet.

High-intensity athletes who regularly engage in draining workouts and fierce competition might also be justified in turning to some supplements, said Silvis, who also serves as Penn State Health’s medical director of primary care sports medicine.

Professional hockey players burn an incredible amount of fuel every day, he said. We look at their protein intake and they can’t possibly eat enough chicken and steak and protein to make up for those losses and we can’t make them lose muscle mass. They are often supplemented with protein shakes, because it is a quick and easy way to maintain your protein intake.

However, that doesn’t include the average person who participates in athletics as a hobby, Silvis noted.

Should all athletes take protein shakes? Absolutely not, he said. Your kid on a T-ball team doesn’t need a protein shake.

Silvis said it’s best to talk to a doctor about whether you need a vitamin or supplement before heading to your local nutrition center, pharmacy or supermarket.

If your body doesn’t need a particular nutrient, the excess is more likely to be eliminated.

Essentially, money spent on most unnecessary supplements goes straight down the toilet.

If you have a well-balanced diet, well, you’re literally just peeing out the vitamins and minerals you’re taking in with the multivitamin, Silvis said. You can only absorb so much, and once you exceed that limit, you just excrete the vitamin.

Therefore, the mentality that, if something is good, more must be better, is not true, he added.

For example, there’s no evidence that taking plenty of vitamin C can prevent colds, and little to suggest that it helps speed recovery, Silvis said.

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not vitamin C actually changes how long you’ll have your disease, Silvis said. But as with other vitamins, if you have a healthy, balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, you will meet your daily dietary needs.

Worse, people can cause a health problem if they take too much of certain vitamins, he said.

For example, too much vitamin A can lead to a toxic condition called hypervitaminosis, which can cause vision and skin changes, bone pain, and even liver damage.

If a person intends to take supplements, they should make sure what they’re ingesting is as safe as possible, Silvis said.

When buying vitamins, consumers should look for the US Pharmacopoeia verified mark on the product, to make sure what’s on the label is actually in the product, Silvis said.

People buying sports performance enhancers should look for products approved by the NSF Certified for Sport, a nonprofit organization that requires strict standards for supplements, Silvis said.

These are the checks and balances you can offer patients. Because there are walls and walls and rows and rows of options when you go to the store, Silvis said. So if you don’t arm the person with the knowledge of what to look for, both in terms of the content of the vitamin or supplement and making sure it’s going to be safe for the patient, I don’t think I’ve done my job. .

SOURCE: Penn State Health, press release, March 20, 2024

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