Medical teaching says that a healthy individual, who eats a good diet, does not require vitamin supplements. He should be able to meet his vitamin needs from his healthy diet. But the public interest in vitamin supplements is enormous – sometimes due to misguided reasons. Almost 30 percent of our population takes vitamin supplements. And there is no control over it.
On the other hand, there is a consensus among experts that taking certain vitamin supplements on a daily basis does more good than harm to healthy individuals. This was well written in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM 20 Dec, 2001) titled What Vitamins Should I Be Taking, Doctor? Here is some information of vitamins you should consider taking on a daily basis.
Folic acid (400 ug/day) reduces the risk of birth defects during pregnancy. There is some evidence that B vitamins, including folic acid, B6 and B12, may help lower blood levels of a substance called homocysteine. A good deal of research has implicated high homocysteine levels in heart disease and stroke. Significantly fewer deaths, nonfatal heart attacks or repeat angioplasties occurred among patients given folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 compared with those who got a placebo (Harvard Health Publications website).
Recommended daily dose of vitamin B6 is 2 mg/day and vitamin B12 is 6 ug/day. One multivitamin tablet a day plus a tablet of folic acid will ensure an adequate intake of these vitamins.
Vitamin D (400 IU/day) minimizes risk of osteoporosis and fractures and certain types of cancer. Recently, much has been written about the advantages of taking 1000 to 2000 IU/day of vitamin D.
A report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says vitamin D, taken in a high dose, may help prevent falls in the elderly. Another report appeared in the journal Nutrition Reviews suggests that adults should daily take 2,000 IU of vitamin D to help prevent colon and breast cancer .
A third report came out in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This review paper analyzed the results of 18 vitamin D studies says that taking vitamin D supplements may help people live longer. The Canadian Cancer Society is now recommended taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily as a cancer prevention step.
Regular use of vitamin E and C remains controversial. The authors feel that vitamin E supplements are reasonable for most middle-aged and older individuals who are at increased risk for coronary artery disease. But this should be reviewed annually as more information becomes available.
To the list of vitamins you can add omega-3 fatty acids. These are a family of unsaturated fatty acids to be taken everyday (1000 mg/day or eat fish three times a week). Omega-3 has many benefits including the risk of sudden heart attack is reduced by 50 to 80 per cent. It can help ward off the serious heart rhythm disturbances associated with sudden cardiac death. It also appears to reduce the risk of strokes, mental decline in old age and prostate cancer.
In summary, a healthy individual (after consultation with your doctor) should consider taking one multivitamin tablet, one folic acid 5 mg. tablet (under certain conditions), vitamin D 1000 IU, omeg-3 fatty acids 1000 mg (or eat fish three times a week) and vitamin E if your doctor thinks it may benefit you.
You should understand that excessive use of vitamins or omeg-3 fatty acids may be detrimental to your health. Vitamin pills do not compensate for the massive risks associated with unhealthy lifestyle with smoking, obesity or inactivity. Healthy nutritious diet and regular exercise is the basic foundation of good health. Vitamin supplement is just an icing on the cake – so to speak. A healthy layer of icing on a healthy cake.
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