Vitamin Supplements:Help for Healthy Eating
Can supplements of vitamins make you really healthier? Some can be beneficial, but a balanced diet is the key to vitamin and mineral success.
Overwhelmed by the vitamin and mineral supplement’s towering shelves in the grocery store?
There are so many choices that sound great, but there are so many questions: which ones are really working? Exactly how effective are they? They’re worth the money?
These are good problems for those who want to live healthier and avoid heart and stroke. But before you buy all vitamin A and zinc, remember that there’s only one way to make sure your body gets the vitamins and minerals: eat healthy foods.
Supplements can be beneficial, but the key to vitamin and mineral success is a balanced diet. Talk to your doctor about your personal diet plan before taking vitamins and mineral supplements.
“Nutritionists recommend food first because food provides a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary factors not found in a vitamin or mineral supplement,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, and Professor of Nutrition at the College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University.
For example, she points out that many foods contain many bioactive compounds and dietary fibers that are not normally found in supplements. And some supplements do not allow complete vitamin absorption.
“If you take the vacuum without food, some of the fat-soluble vitamins won’t be absorbed as if you had consumed the supplement with the food that provides fat,” says Kris-Etherton, who also volunteered with the American Heart Association.
Supplements May Help
While diet is the key to the best vitamins and minerals, supplements may be useful. For example, supplements may help if you do your best to eat healthy foods but are still inadequate in some areas. In addition to healthy diets and nutrient-dense foods, they need to be taken. They are supplements, not substitutes. Only use supplements if recommended by your healthcare professional.
“A supplement will generally provide 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for all vitamins and minerals,”
Kris-Etherton said. Therefore, many nutritionists agree that a supplement is OK if a healthy diet does not meet nutrient needs.’
Do what’s best for yourself
As said before, talk to your doctor about your personal diet plan before you take vitamin and mineral supplements. Take into account the suggested U.S. “do and do.” Association of heart:
- Eat healthy diets. There is no substitute for a balanced nutritious diet that limits excess calories and saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and dietary cholesterol. This approach has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in healthy people and people with heart disease.
- Patients with heart disease should consume about 1 gram of fatty acids known as EPA+DHA omega-3. Ideally, it should come from fish. This can be difficult to obtain by diet alone, so a supplement may be required. As always, consult a doctor first.
- If you have high triglycerides, try to get 2-4 grams of EPA+DHA per day.
Don’t do this:
- Do not take vitamin supplements with antioxidants like A, C and E. Scientists do not suggest that these can not eliminate the need to lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol or stop smoking.
- Do not rely on supplements only. There are not enough data to show that healthy people benefit by taking certain vitamins or mineral supplements above the recommended daily allowance. Some observational studies show that the use of cardiovascular disease can lower rates and/or decrease risk factor levels.
- In these studies, however, it is unclear whether supplements have led to such improvements.
AHA Scientific Position
We recommend that healthy people obtain adequate nutrients by eating a range of foods moderately, rather than using supplements. An exception for omega 3 fatty acid supplements is explained below.
The DRIs published by the Institute of Medicine offer the best estimates of safe and adequate dietary intakes available. If consumed in large quantities over a long period of time, almost any nutrient can be potentially toxic. Interactions between dietary and prescription supplements and several nutritional supplements taken simultaneously may occur. An excess of iron can improve the risk of chronic disease, and vitamin A can cause birth defects.
There is not enough information to suggest that healthy people benefit from taking certain additional vitamins or minerals over DRIs. Although some observational studies have shown that lower rates of cardiovascular disease and/or lower levels of risk factors lead to populations using vitamin or mineral supplements, it is not clear whether this is due to supplements. For example, users of supplements could be less overweight and physically more active.
Moreover, a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and dietary cholesterol is not a substitute for vitamin or mineral supplements. This approach has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in both healthy people and those with coronary heart disease.
What about vitamins with antioxidants?
Many people are interested in antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E). This is due to suggestions from large observational studies comparing healthy adults with those who have not consumed large amounts of these vitamins. However, these observations are subject to bias and do not prove a relationship between cause and effect.
Scientific evidence does not suggest that the use of antioxidant vitamins may eliminate the need to reduce blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, or stop smoking cigarettes. Clinical trials are underway to determine whether increased intake of antioxidant vitamins can have an overall benefit. A recent large, randomized, placebo-controlled study, however, has not demonstrated the benefits of vitamin E in cardiac disease.
Although antioxidant supplements are not recommended, antioxidant food sources are recommended— especially plant products such as fruit, vegetables, whole-grain foods and vegetable oils.
What about supplements of omega-3 fatty acids?
Fish intake was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Based on available data, the American Heart Association recommends that patients without documented heart disease eat a range of fish–preferably omega 3–at least twice a week. Examples of these types of fish include salmon, herring, and truffle.
It is recommended that patients with documented heart disease should consume approximately 1 gram of EPA + DHA (types of omega-3 fatty acids), preferably fish, even if the supplements for EPA + DHA could be considered, but should consult the doctor first.
For people with high triglycerides (blood fats), it is recommended that there be 2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day in the form of capsules and under a doctor’s care.