Vitamin supplements are big business. Nutrition and health care experts constantly assault us with studies showing how vitamins found in the food we eat can make us healthier and even extend our lives, but since most of those vitamins aren’t prevalent in foods we love, few people get their recommended daily allowance of all these nutrients. Hence, the popularity of vitamin supplements. But do you really need vitamin supplements? The answer depends in great part on your lifestyle. When it comes to whether you should take vitamin supplements or not, lifestyle matters.
For instance, many people have chosen to follow a strict vegetarian lifestyle. While there is something to be said for avoiding meat products, it remains a fact of biology that those who choose the vegetarian way of life are not getting all the vitamins and minerals they need. By eating only vegetables and avoiding meat, you may not be getting enough Vitamin B12 or enough zinc in your diet. Obviously, the stricter a vegetarian regimen you follow, the more likely you need to some vitamin supplements. If you also avoid dairy products, for instance, you will almost definitely benefit from taking vitamin supplements.
Anyone who either chooses or is required to avoid dairy products can benefit from vitamin supplements. Although calcium is present in many vegetables, unless you are piling your salad plates halfway to the ceiling each time you sit down to eat, you are probably not getting enough. Those who avoid dairy products for one reason or another can find calcium in many leafy green vegetables, some types of fish and even soy milk, but even those aren’t likely to get you up to the RDA. Therefore, you might want to take a look at taking vitamin supplements high in calcium.
Do you need another reason to give up smoking? How about this easily avoidable catch-22: You know that smoking causes cancer, right? And you may know that Vitamin C helps to fight off the types of cancer caused by smoking. But did you know that smoking actually causes your body to use up more Vitamin C than if you weren’t smoking? Therefore, in order to gain the cancer-fighting benefits of Vitamin C you actually have to consume more Vitamin C than those who don’t smoke. Since most people don’t even get their RDA of Vitamin C through food and juices, it is highly advisable for smokers to consider using vitamin supplements high in Vitamin C. Needless to say, this line of reasoning also applies to those who don’t smoke themselves, but are exposed to second hand smoke. Those who inhale smoke secondhand do not experience the same dramatic drop in Vitamin C levels as smokers themselves, but it still could be enough to recommend vitamin supplements just to make sure.
Vitamin supplements may also be a good idea if you are taking other medications. Certain medications can affect the body’s ability to absorb or retain various vitamins and minerals. If you are taking medication for hypertension that contains hydralazine you might not be getting enough Vitamin B6. Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide can significantly exhaust your supply of such nutrients as phosphate, Vitamin D and folate. In addition, overuse of antacids can have deleterious effects on stomach acids that can result in a significant decrease in the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin B12.
Cholesterol lowering drugs containing cholestryamine can reduce Vitamins A, E, D, K, B12 and folate. Laxatives containing bisacodyl and phenolphtahelein lower such nutrients as calcium and Vitamin D. Diuretics containing thiazide or furosemide can present problems with retaining magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Being over 60 years old isn’t really a lifestyle choice, but older people face specific problems in getting enough vitamins and minerals. After age 60, the body naturally loses much of its ability to absorb vitamins because the stomach produces less acid. Ironically, it is also just around this time of life that you begin to need things such as Vitamins D and B6 even more. Absorption of B12 through food lessens considerably in people over age 60. Vitamin B12 is important because of its role in the immune system. The RDA of Vitamin D goes through roof after age 70 and is especially important for women at risk for osteoporosis.
Lifestyle choices have an impact on whether you need to take vitamin supplements. Just as standardized testing in schools is based on the false assumption that everybody’s brain develops in the same way on identical timetables, so it is a false assumption to think that everybody needs the same amount of the same vitamins.