The medical minute: vitamin supplements versus a balanced diet? No contest | Penn State University

HERSHEY, Pennsylvania. Global consumers spent more than $177 billion on dietary supplements by 2023, with at least a quarter of that roughly $45 billion or more purchased by Americans, according to a study by Grand View Research, a research and marketing based in the United States. firm

These numbers are expected to continue to grow over the next decade due to increased individual nutritional awareness and an aging population.

About 59 million Americans use some type of vitamin or supplement regularly, spending an average of $510 a year, according to

They’re everywhere: gummies, protein shakes, and countless other supplements that boost the body’s supply of critical vitamins and minerals.

However, most of us don’t even need these supplements, especially if we focus on eating a balanced diet every day, according to Dr. Matthew Silvis, vice president of clinical operations at Penn State Health Family and Community Medicine and medical director of sports medicine at ‘primary care by Penn State Health.

Get your fruits and vegetables

Remember that healthy food pyramid poster from elementary school? Follow that, and many Americans could pocket what they would spend annually on over-the-counter supplements.

For most people, they don’t need multivitamins or supplements. If you have a balanced diet and can eat nutritious foods, fruits, vegetables, etc., you don’t need a multivitamin or supplement, Silvis said. The general answer is that most people don’t need them, despite the multi-billion dollar industry that is the vitamin industry. But there are populations of individuals who need to consider a multivitamin or supplement. And this is individualized.

Some examples of these include pregnant women who may need more folic acid than they would get in their normal diet; patients with osteoporosis who could benefit from calcium and vitamin D; and vegans or those with celiac disease who may need a multivitamin that contains a combination of supplements such as iron, B12, vitamin D, copper and zinc.

More is not necessarily better

Best, Silvis said, to discuss your options with a doctor before spending money on vitamins and supplements. If your body doesn’t need a particular supplement, it will simply get rid of it and the money you spend goes down the toilet.

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

So the mentality that if something is good, more must be better is not true. And you can end up creating problems if you take too much of certain vitamins.

Too much vitamin A, for example, can lead to a toxicity known as hypervitaminosis, which could lead to serious problems, including vision and skin changes, bone pain, and potentially liver damage.

But what happens to vitamin C when you’re sick?

Perhaps the most widely accepted supplement is vitamin C, which has a reputation for warding off colds or at least speeding recovery when a patient suffers from head and chest congestion.

Silvis said there is no empirical evidence that vitamin C has any preventive power; whether it can help speed recovery is inconclusive.

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.

Although ingesting too much vitamin C is not as dangerous as too much vitamin A, it could cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, Silvis said.

The case of athletes

Another reason for the increase in global supplement consumption is the unparalleled saturation of the market that has occurred in the last two decades with sports enhancement products such as creatine, protein shakes and amino acids.

For high-intensity athletes who engage in draining workouts, using certain supplements makes sense, said Silvis, who has served as the team physician for the Hershey Bears minor league hockey franchise for 16 years.

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

But that doesn’t mean everyone who participates in athletics needs to supplement their workouts, especially if they eat balanced meals.

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

Make sure it’s safe

If a patient intends to use dietary supplements, they should at least make sure that what they are ingesting is as safe as possible. There are two important and easy ways to do this, Silvis said. When shopping for vitamins, look for the US Pharmacopoeia Verified mark on the products, making sure that what’s on the label is actually in the product and in the specified potency and amounts.

With sports performance enhancers, only buy products that have been certified by NSF Certified for Sport, a non-profit organization that requires strict standards for certification, including confirmation that a product does not contain harmful contaminants not listed in the label, such as traces of anabolic steroids. .

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. .

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Themedical minuteis a weekly health news story produced by Penn State Health. Articles include the expertise of faculty, clinicians, and staff, and are designed to provide relevant and timely health information of interest to a broad audience.

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