I take dietary supplements?" is a question much like,
"Should I stop for gas?" The answer depends on whatís
in the tank. In other words, only take dietary supplements if
you need them.
supplements should be just that ó a way to get the nutrients
missing from our diets. Still, real food is the best way to
get the right balance of nutrients to make our human machines
run smoothly, say experts. Why? Scientists say there is a
special interaction or synergy between nutrients and other
substances in whole food that enhances their health effects
more than the action of each molecule individually. And while
toxic doses of dietary supplements can be a concern, itís
very difficult to overdose on nutrients from eating food.
are some exceptions, however, to the rule that we can get all
the nutrition we need from eating good food, say experts.
D: Vitamin D is unique, we were told in the Advisory Report
for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, because it
is not present in many of the foods we commonly eat. Itís
also different from other nutrients in that the primary source
for obtaining vitamin D is not from food but from the sun.
(Sunshine on exposed skin causes a reaction that stimulates
the formation of vitamin D in our bodies.)
we ate perfectly, our diet could still fall short of vitamin
D, say experts. And in this world of limited sun exposure,
dietary supplements have become a main source of this
If you avoid dairy foods for any reason or if you do not eat
calcium-fortified soy or other products, you may need
Certain individuals can benefit from a daily multivitamin,
including pregnant women, women who are nursing an infant,
strict vegetarians and vegans (whose diets are typically low
in vitamin B-12, zinc, iron and calcium). People who have had
weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass and adults over the
age of 65 (the body doesnít process nutrients as well as we
age) may also need a daily multivitamin.
eat at least two servings of fruit every day? Do you eat at
least 2 cups of vegetables every day? Do you routinely eat
whole grain foods? If not, say nutrition experts, you are
probably falling short on key nutrients such as potassium,
magnesium and vitamins C and E. If a change in diet is not in
the cards, a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that
provides around 100 percent of the recommended daily value can
help fill the gap.
dietary supplements safe? They are as long as we donít
exceed the UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Level) set by the
Institute of Medicine (www.nationalacademies.org).
way, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the midst of a
project called the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database (DSID)
in which the content and quality of dietary supplements are
being analyzed. Thus far, they have found that not all dietary
supplements contain the amount of nutrient listed on their
labels. Buyers beware.
confused? Join the party. Then track down the info you need at
the reliable Office of Dietary Supplements (ods.od.nih.gov).