From Flintstones to One-A-Days – Do we really need vitamins?
From the time we’re kids, we take vitamins – believing they’re good for us. It just feels like the health-conscious thing to do, doesn’t it? Well although that can be true, did you know that most healthy adults (key word here: healthy) may not need to take vitamins at all?Earlier this year, we sat down with pharmacist Lisa Johnson, RD, PharmD, from CHI Health Clinic in Bellevue to get the scientific take on vitamins and supplements. Read more to find out which ones are good for you and whether or not too much of a good thing is actually just too much.
Q: Do otherwise healthy adults need to take a daily vitamin?
A: Healthy adults who also eat healthy meals do not need to take daily multiple vitamins. Overdosing on some vitamins can cause serious illness or organ damage. People who may need a daily vitamin include those who have poor dietary habits or decreased sun exposure, pregnant women or women who may want to become pregnant and people who smoke or drink. In addition, vegetarians may need vitamin B12.
Q: There are so many out there, vitamins for women, for children, for seniors, for weight loss, for muscle building – how do we pick the right vitamin for us?
A: Because we are all different and have different needs, the best way to choose a vitamin is to consult with a health professional like your doctor or pharmacist. We understand your medical history and can help you find the right vitamin for you. You can also use health kiosks like the one in our Bellevue pharmacy, which provides useful information about some of the vitamins you will find over the counter.
Q: Do our vitamin needs change as we age? If so, how?
A: Vitamin needs can and do change throughout our lives – illness, diet and pregnancy, for example can take us from not needing a vitamin at all to needing fairly strong ones. Certainly age is one of those life changes that may require us to take more vitamins. For example, women usually need more calcium as they get older. The recommended dose is between 1200 and 1500 mg per day.
Q: When it comes to vitamins – do we need to be concerned about getting “too much of a good thing?”
A: Absolutely. You can overdose on some vitamins, which can lead to serious illness and even organ damage. I have heard of some doctors suggesting adult patients take children’s Flintstone vitamins, especially if they can not tolerate the other vitamins. This is usually due to the calcium in some vitamins which can cause nausea. If you are lacking calcium, and adult vitamins make you sick, I recommend you find a way to add calcium to your diet.
Q: When are high doses of vitamins (like Vitamin C, for example) okay?
A: The recommended daily dose of vitamin C is 90mg/day for adult males and 70mg/day for adult females. A lot of people use high doses of vitamin C for colds and flu, however it is only recommended for those with a vitamin C deficiency. Our body can not store more than 500mg of Vitamin C a day. Too much vitamin C can upset the stomach and cause diarrhea.
Q: Do vitamins interact with medications? If so, what is the best way to navigate away from trouble?
A: Yes, some vitamins can interact with medications. In some cases, they can actually decrease the effectiveness of certain medications. In other cases, vitamins can cause toxic levels of medications to build up in the body. Always let your doctor and pharmacist know about any vitamins that you are taking so we can make help you avoid any interactions.
Q: Supplements are a huge industry – are they now regulated by the FDA?
A: Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. I believe that there should be some standardization for supplements just to make sure that you are actually getting the dosage that you need.
Q: What do people need to know about supplements?
A: Supplements should be chosen very carefully. They can be more potent than you think. They also interact with some medications. Definitely consult a health care professional.
Q: Are generic vitamins as good as the brand name? What about supplements – is one brand better than another?
A: Generics work just as well as brand name. I have been advised of one issue concerning fish oil. Make sure to select a brand that is mercury free.
Q: What is your advice to those wondering whether to try vitamins and supplements?
A: My advice for those wondering whether or not to try vitamins and supplements is to consider that overall diet and health first. If they eat healthy, they may not even need a vitamin or supplement. Those who are in the categories that I mentioned in question #1 may need to consider vitamins. Please consult your health care professional. We are always willing to help.
These blogs were written by various members of the CHI Health care teams.