Vitamin and mineral supplements… yes! But…

Vitamin and mineral supplements… yes! But…

Seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist before adding vitamin and mineral supplements to your diet.

1. Benefits of vitamins and minerals

A healthy, balanced diet—that follows Canada Food Guide recommendations—provides all the nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.

However, some people find it challenging to consume the recommended daily amount of healthy foods.

Among the reasons given:

  • Busy schedule
  • Lack of organization
  • Irregular schedules
  • Decision fatigue at mealtime
  • A family situation that makes it hard to maintain regular mealtimes
  • A job where stress levels override hunger cravings
  • Etc.

Nevertheless, a vitamin or mineral deficiency can lead to a variety of health problems.

This is why some people might consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements, but never before speaking to a health professional.

2. Health impacts

Be wary of supplements and make sure they are not doing more harm than good.

If you decide to use supplements, be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist about it to avoid undesirable drug interactions. These are adverse reactions that could result from combining a supplement with medication.

Vitamin superstars

Many people swear by the countless benefits of the most popular vitamins—A, C and E—from the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular disease to cancer to cataracts, and the list goes on.

However, be aware of these misconceptions:

  • Vitamin A: although vital for good eyesight and healthy teeth, skin and bones, can cause decrease bone mass, or even cause osteoporosis, when taken in very high amounts.
  • Vitamin C: although reputed to reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms, studies have yet to produce conclusive evidence on the matter. What we do know is that it plays a role in skin health, red blood cell formation, iron absorption from plant-based foods, to name a few.
  • Vitamin E: although it does have antioxidant properties, it offers no actual benefits beyond the recommended daily intake, so there is no point in taking too much.

Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, meaning they accumulate in body fat, which could lead to harmful effects from excessive consumption.

The kidneys quickly flush away vitamin B-complex and vitamin C as they are water soluble. Excessive consumption of these vitamins is less harmful to the body but still not recommended.

Minerals

Although not as well-known as vitamins, minerals—sodium, iron, calcium, zinc, chromium, phosphorous, magnesium, chlorine and iodine—have many beneficial properties.

However, taking more than the recommended amount is not advised as not much is known about the threshold at which adverse effects appear.

3. Deficiency: yes or no?

Your family doctor may recommend that you start taking supplements when you are diagnosed with a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

If you are lacking vitamin B12, your doctor will prescribe… B12.

Avoid self-treating a deficiency by readily taking over-the-counter multivitamins and instead, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. These pills may contain an amount of nutrients that is higher than the recommended dietary intake.