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Are Vitamin Supplements Really Necessary?

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Are Vitamin Supplements Really Necessary?
by Renee Kennedy

It is a fact that vitamins are important to a healthy diet.
Without certain vitamins, your body could be at risk for
disease. There are some studies on how specific vitamins
can help specific illnesses. Some of those studies are
mentioned below and references are listed at the end of
the article.

However, most of the medical community seems to agree
that getting your vitamins from whole foods is much better
than taking supplements.

There are exceptions to this. For example, if you're
pregnant, a folic acid supplement may be prescribed by
your doctor. Another example is taking doctor
recommended vitamin supplements for a specific illness.

Do not take vitamin supplements without consulting your
health care provider, especially if you are on any medications
or you have any illness or special health conditions
(like pregnancy, anemia, heart condition, etc.).

Here are the most important vitamins:

Vitamin A
--Affects: skin, tissue growth and regeneration, eyes, white
blood cells, bone and teeth growth and mucus membranes
in mouth, nose, throat, lungs.
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 5,000 IU for men and
4,000 IU for women
--Whole Foods: whole milk, fat-free milk fortified with
vitamin A, whole eggs, liver, beef, chicken, dark green leafy
vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli,
cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, tomato juice.
--Deficiency Symptoms: teeth and gum problems, fatigue,
loss of appetite, dry, scaly skin, increase susceptibility to
infection, night blindness. (Vitamin A deficiency would be
rare in the United States, it occurs mainly in developing
countries where people are malnourished.)
--Warnings: High doses of Vitamin A from supplements can
cause birth defects, liver problems and reduction in bone
density.
--Research: A recent study found that beta carotene along
with other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular
degeneration. Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins
if you have macular degeneration.

Vitamin B6
--Affects: brain and metabolism
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams
--Whole Foods: Poultry, fish, pork, eggs, soybeans, oats,
whole-grain foods, nuts, seeds and bananas.
--Deficiency Symptoms: skin problems, anemia in adults,
convulsions in infants
--Warnings: High doses of B6 may cause nerve damage.

Vitamin B9: Folic Acid
--Affects: developing fetus, red blood cell formation, protein
metabolism, growth and cell division
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 400 micrograms
--Whole Foods: Citrus juices and fruits, beans, nuts, seeds,
liver, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, beet greens) and
fortified grain products (rice, bread, cereal, pasta).
--Warnings: High doses over 1500 mcg/day should be avoided
as it can cause a variety of symptoms like nausea and loss of
appetite.
--Research: A Folic acid supplement can reduce the risk of
neural tube defects in the developing fetus when taken by the
mother before and during pregnancy.

Vitamin B12
--Affects: red blood cells, metabolism and nerves
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 6 micrograms
--Whole Foods: Meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs and dairy
products.
--Deficiency Symptoms: memory loss, disorientation,
hallucinations, and tingling in the arms and legs

Vitamin C
--Affects: skin, immunity to illness, healing of wounds
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 90 mg for men and
75 mg for women (and an extra 35 mg for smokers)
--Whole Foods: Citrus juice and fruit, berries, tomatoes,
potatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli and spinach.
--Deficiency Symptoms: weakness, irritability, weight loss,
bleeding gums, infection, gangrene, hemorrhaging, wounds
that won't heal.
--Warnings: Excess vitamin C may cause mild diarrhea
--Research: A recent study found that vitamin C along with
other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular
degeneration. Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins
if you have macular degeneration.

Vitamin D
--Affects: bone, teeth and absorption of calcium
--Daily Recommended Dosage:
up to age 50: 5 micrograms
51 '70: 10 micrograms
after 70: 15 micrograms
--Whole Foods: Vitamin D-fortified milk, vitamin D-fortified
cereal, liver, egg yolks, fish and fish liver oils. And Sunlight!
--Deficiency Symptoms: bone softening
--Warnings: Prolonged use of excess Vitamin D is not
recommended. Can cause kidney damage, high blood pressure,
headaches, and other problems.
--Research: Vitamin D combined with calcium may slow bone
loss and reduce fractures.

Vitamin E
--Affects: red blood cells, reproduction, aging
--Daily Recommended Dosage: 15 milligrams from food
OR 22 IU from natural-source vitamin E OR 33 IU from the
synthetic form
--Whole Foods: Vegetable oils, wheat germ, whole-grain
products, avocados, nuts and peanut butter.
--Warnings: In rare cases when Vitamin E is taken in high
doses it can cause many types of symptoms including bleeding
and gastrointestinal problems.
--Research: A recent study found that vitamin E along with
other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular degeneration.
Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins if you have
macular degeneration. Studies have indicated that Vitamin E may
slow Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

References:

American Heart Association Vitamin and Mineral Supplements:
http://216.185.112.5/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4788

National Eye Institute Age Related Eye Disease Study:
http://www.nei.nih.gov/amd/summary.htm

American Academy of Pediatrics Folic Acid for the
Prevention of Neural Tube Defects:
http://www.aap.org/policy/re9834.html

Mayo Clinic Using vitamin and mineral supplements wisely
(There is quite a bit of information in this article, if you are
considering taking vitamin supplements, read this article first.):
http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=NU00198

Harvard School of Public Health Vitamins:
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins.html


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