Is it necessary to add?
This topic is controversial even among experts.
For most adults, supplements are often not the only possible solution for achieving and maintaining good health. In fact, for many people experiencing health issues, supplements are often not the first line of defense a nutritionist turns to. Other lifestyle modifications, such as changes in diet and exercise recommendations, often come first.
That said, there are situations where supplementation is recommended as a standard. In other cases, they may help fill gaps in your diet that are lacking in nutrients.
Common situations in which providers recommend taking vitamins, supplements, or minerals include:
- Infants receiving breast milk or less than 32 ounces of formula per day
- health improvement
- special diet
Supplements you may need
Supplements may have their detractors, but some can be beneficial, especially in certain circumstances.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that people with a uterus should start taking prenatal vitamins when they start trying to conceive and continue taking them throughout pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking a prenatal vitamin with 400 milligrams of folic acid to prevent certain birth defects.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends taking at least 27 milligrams of iron per day during pregnancy, which is a common component of prenatal vitamins.
Folic acid combined with iron is good for the fetus
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord in babies. Iron helps facilitate the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Iron helps support normal development of the baby and placenta.
According to a 2022 study, about 42% of people are vitamin D deficient, with the highest rate among black people at 82%.
Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, and egg yolks and fatty fish are good food sources. Beyond that, the options are slim, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It's nearly impossible to get all the vitamin D you need from food alone. Oily fish, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products provide vitamin D, but not in sufficient amounts to meet daily needs.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of diseases, including:
- poor bone health
- CancerTrusted Source
- Cardiovascular DiseaseTrusted Source
- gestational diabetes
Research shows that taking vitamin D during pregnancy can reduce the risk of:
- gestational diabetes
- low birth weight
- severe postpartum hemorrhage
- premature birth
The NIH recommends that infants under 12 months of age get 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D, so the CDC says children younger than 12 months who are fed only formula may not need vitamin D supplements.
A 2015 study showed that nursing parents can take 6,400 IU of vitamin D per day to provide their nursing infant with adequate vitamin D through breast milk.
The NIH recommends that people ages 1 to 70 need 600 IU per day, and those over 70 should get 800 IU per day. Because it is difficult to obtain vitamin D from food, it is worthwhile to take vitamin D supplements even after infancy.
Probably one of the most popular vitamins is Omega 3. They are fatty acids found naturally in fish such as salmon and nuts such as walnuts.
If your diet is low in these items, you may benefit from taking one. Although omega 3s are linked to good heart health, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says the data on this association is based on seafood intake.
However, the agency says it may help lower triglycerides and relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
B12 occurs naturally in animal products and is important for:
- red blood cell formation
- DNA production
- neurological function
- Cell metabolism.
A 2022 study showed that vitamin B12 deficiencies were higher in vegetarians than in vegetarians. Nearly two-thirds of pregnant women are also vitamin D deficient. For people who are deficient in vitamin B12, it is worthwhile to take a vitamin B12 supplement, especially those who do not consume animal-based protein.
Iron is found in foods such as nuts and dark green leafy vegetables. According to the NIH, it helps:
- Transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues
- Promote muscle metabolism
- Support physical growth
- Helps neurodevelopment
Although a food-first approach is recommended, people with iron deficiencies and those on the verge of anemia may benefit from iron supplements.
Additionally, pregnant women should look for prenatal medications that contain iron to support fetal development. Be sure to ask your doctor about your best options, as it's possible to take in too much iron, leading to iron toxicity in rare cases.
Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral and is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Still, nearly half of Americans don't get enough magnesium, according to a 2018 study.
Research shows oral magnesium supplements may help:
- Lower blood pressure
- extend sleep time
- Reduce fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels
- improve mood
Supplements You Don’t Need
Some supplements, such as probiotics, are extremely popular. But experts and researchers say the data doesn't support the hype. You can hold off on trying these supplements.
The powders look healthy and have hopeful buzzwords on the labels.
Most green powder products claim to be packed with nutrients and whole-food sources of prebiotics and prebiotics. Making consumers think they can substitute green powder for real green vegetables or green vegetables.
Claims that green powders can improve energy, performance, and digestion are unfounded. There isn't much research on this, except for a small 2009 study of 40 people that showed supplementing with fruit and vegetable powders for 90 days may lower blood pressure but not weight.
It is recommended to add real green vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, to your diet.
Probiotics are one of the most popular supplements, but the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there is currently no data supporting the evidence supporting probiotic supplements for treating problems like diarrhea and ulcerative colitis.
Some products market themselves as "high doses." This jargon sounds great, but it’s not.
Unless prescribed by your doctor, these supplements are overkill.
Large doses may have long-term effects.
Buffered creatine monohydrate
Research shows that creatine monohydrate can reduce injury and speed recovery. The "buffered" and "advanced" versions claim to be an improvement.
These formulas are more expensive and claim they absorb better, but this is not the case.
For example, too much vitamin D can cause kidney problems, and too much vitamin C can cause digestive problems.
This applies to taking any supplement. If you only get nutrients from your diet, there is no need to add more nutrients to your diet through oral tablets or powders.
How to find high-quality supplements
Since supplements are held to different standards than foods, here ’s an insight into the vitamin and mineral aisles of grocery stores.
Chelated vs. non-chelated
You may notice these terms on mineral water bottles.
Chelation means the minerals have been altered, resulting in improved absorption. This is accomplished by combining the mineral with another molecule, such as an amino acid or organic acid, to make it easier for the body to absorb.
- Iron bisglycinate
- zinc bisglycinate
- Chromium Picolinate
- and magnesium bisglycinate
Non-chelated minerals, on the other hand, are unstable, and since they don't bind to other substances, they attract other molecules to bind to them, interfering with absorption even more.
Studies are diverse and often have small sample sizes. For example, one study showed that chelated zinc, such as zinc citrate and zinc gluconate, is better absorbed than nonchelated zinc and may be beneficial for zinc deficiency and treating diarrhea.
A 2019 study showed that chelated magnesium glycerophosphate was significantly better at increasing blood magnesium levels than non-chelated magnesium oxide.
However, a 2014 study in postmenopausal people showed that unchelated calcium carbonate was absorbed more quickly and was better at raising blood calcium levels than calcium citrate.
Assess mineral sources
Food and water make up the majority of our mineral intake. They can also be found at:
- trace mineral drops
- electrolyte products
Thoughtful supplements will consider nutrient competition, for example, iron competes with other minerals for absorption, such as zinc, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
It is recommended to avoid taking multivitamins that contain iron. Calcium and iron supplements can be taken several hours apart. It's also possible to get too much iron, so be sure to talk to your doctor before adding iron to your supplement regimen.
Some minerals act like electrolytes, including:
Gronk says about electrolytes:
- Maintain body fluid balance
- Keep the heart beating normally
- Help blood flow
- Regulate blood pressure
- Support bone health
- Affect your hormones
- Supports adrenal health
Other important details when choosing a supplement
- Ensure third-party testing, such as through USP conventions and consumer laboratories
- Avoid artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners
- Avoid fillers such as stearic acid, silica and titanium dioxide
- Choose the tablet, chewable tablet, gummy or powder that works best for you
- Choose only supplements that fit your medical and dietary needs
- Read labels with a critical eye – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
How to tell if your body is absorbing a supplement?
How do you know if your supplements are actually effective or if they should be cut back?
Most of what goes in eventually comes out.
High doses of magnesium citrate and vitamin C can cause diarrhea, so you will need to reduce the amount you take if this occurs. Sometimes, high doses of B vitamins can cause urine to appear bright yellow; however, this is not necessarily harmful.
your energy level
Is the pep in your step the result of supplements or the placebo effect?
Some supplements, such as vitamin B12, can quickly boost energy. Adrenal supplements can help people feel calm and focused relatively quickly. If a person is dehydrated or has a mineral imbalance, electrolyte supplements can boost energy, body function, and improve blood pressure.
Whether you need an over-the-counter drug test depends on why you are taking the supplement.
Home blood glucose monitoring and in-office blood tests are important if you want to lower blood sugar in prediabetes or diabetes.
Medical professionals can also check the nutrient levels in your blood before you start taking the supplement and after taking it for a specific period.
If you are just starting to supplement for the first time or are using it to help improve certain symptoms, an in-office test may be helpful. In-office testing may also be recommended if you experience side effects from your supplements.
Overall, it's always important to check with your doctor about any supplements you're taking to make sure they won't interfere with any medications or treatments.