A vitamin and mineral supplement provides a variety of nutrients that are also found in food. These supplements are often called multivitamins. They come in the form of pills, chewable tablets, powders, and liquids.
A standard multivitamin usually contains:
Some multivitamins also contain other ingredients that aren't vitamins or minerals. These include substances such as the antioxidants lutein and lycopene.
The best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk and milk products, and seafood as part of a nutritious food plan. A supplement can't make up for unhealthy eating habits. But sometimes even people who have healthy eating habits find it hard to get all the fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods they need. A supplement can help fill in the gaps.
Certain people are more likely to need a supplement. They include:
Many supplements are advertised as being specially designed for men or for women or for certain age groups. A standard multivitamin is okay for most people who take a supplement. But some people prefer to take a supplement that is made for their gender or age group.
Types of specialized supplements include:
When you think about buying a dietary supplement, be sure to check the claims that the manufacturers make. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way that it regulates medicines. This means that supplements can be sold without research on how well, or even if, they work.
Here are some things to consider:
Other Works Consulted
- American Dietetic Association (ADA) (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient supplementation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(12): 2074–2085. Available online: http://www.eatright.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=8445.
- Gallagher ML (2012). Intake: The nutrients and their metabolism. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 32–128. St. Louis: Saunders.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2008). FDA 101: Dietary Supplements. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm050803.htm.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2009). Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm118079.htm.
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