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Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: When Are They Worth Taking?

Health is big business these days and one area that is becoming increasingly popular is the sale of vitamin and mineral supplements. Many who take these supplements swear by their benefits, but others simply say that you get enough nutrition from an ordinary diet. But are either of these perspectives, right? Should you bother with supplements at all?

Taking Supplements to Account for a Deficiency

vitamin and mineralOne of the main reasons an individual may take vitamin and mineral supplements is due to a deficiency. This could be genetic or down to a particular condition, such as malabsorption of a particular nutrient. Of course, in these scenarios a person will likely experience symptoms suggesting that something isn’t quite right, such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating. These general symptoms can then be diagnosed by a doctor and recommendations or prescriptions can be made. In these situations, the need to take additional nutritional supplements is obviously necessary.

Some common instances of supplementing vitamins and minerals due to a medical deficiency are:

  • Taking iron tablets due to being anaemic
  • Taking B12 due to having a folate deficiency.

These can be prescribed directly by a doctor – sometimes as an injection in the case of B12 – but some people do choose to buy over the counter tablets.

Taking Commonly Recommended Vitamin Supplements

Outside of having a specific medical reason to take supplementary nutrients many people choose to take vitamins and minerals that are said to be low in a number of people. Whether or not this is necessary can depend on various factors. Lifestyle, diet, current climate, and physiological state – such as pregnancy – may influence this necessity.

vitamin and mineralAn example of choosing to use supplements in this way is taking additional vitamin D. With a climate that can be as overcast as the one we have in Britain obtaining sufficient vitamin D can be tricky, this is because sunshine is the most abundant source of the vitamin. Because of this some may choose to take it during the autumn and winter months, although only certain groups are recommended to do so. These include:

  • Young babies and children from birth to the age of four
  • Pregnant women
  • Heavily housebound individuals, such as those who are frail
  • Those who wear clothing that covers them when outdoors.

As you would expect, vitamin D isn’t the only supplement that may need to be taken due to individual circumstances. If there is a reason you may not get enough of a particular nutrient from your diet – where most of our nutrients come from – supplements are worth considering. Those who have a very restricted diet – perhaps due to being vegan, vegetarian, or just generally fussy – may want to assess what vitamins and minerals they could be lacking and supplement them accordingly.

When is it a Waste of Time to Use Supplements?

There is obviously a clear role for nutritional supplements, but there are also cases when you’re just wasting your money. Generally, if you have a fairly balance diet that takes nutrition from a variety of foods – vegetables, meat, carbohydrates etc. – then it’s unlikely you’ll be in need of additional help. Of course, there are the situations for particular groups of people already mentioned but most of the general population will be just fine without.

If you are unsure of what you may or may not need based on your lifestyle, then it might be worth talking to your pharmacist as they can give you unbiased advice about what you might need. If you have certain symptoms they can also refer you to a doctor if there may be a chance of underlying conditions like anaemia. Once you’ve got this advice you can take the right supplements for your needs, if any at all.