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VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS & YOU

This article is designed to answer your questions about vitamin and mineral supplements. Use it as a guide to help make decisions on how supplements can play a role in improving your health.

The Answers to Commonly Asked Questions


What are vitamins and minerals and why are they important in our diet?

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that, in general, our bodies cannot manufacture. They are needed for good health and many vital functions. More than 40 different nutrients are required for normal growth and maintenance of body tissues.

In addition, scientific research is showing that many nutrients may play an important role in reducing the risk of various common, chronic diseases. Refer to the chart at the back of this brochure for the benefits of individual nutrients.

Numerous articles in newspapers and magazines report that vitamins and minerals may provide protection against some chronic diseases. Are these reports based on scientific evidence?

Yes. Although chronic diseases have many causes, scientific studies show that generous intakes of certain nutrients may have a protective effect. An adequate calcium intake coupled with other minerals, vitamin D, and adequate exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease which weakens bones and can lead to painful and debilitating fractures.

Many studies provide evidence that foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta carotene may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and cataracts. Other studies have reported that daily vitamin E supplements may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Scientists also emphasize the importance of including low-fat, high fiber foods in the diet

What are antioxidants and how do they help protect against the risk of certain diseases?

Antioxidants are substances that offset potential damage from unstable compounds called free radicals, which are produced when the body burns fuel for energy. Free radicals can cause cell and tissue damage and can eventually contribute to chronic disease.

The body naturally produces some antioxidants to protect against cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals. However, this natural protection may not be sufficient to defend against excessive free radical production caused by exposure to cigarette smoke, radiation, and environmental pollutants such as smog. Numerous scientific studies suggest foods that contain vitamins C and E and beta carotene have antioxidant properties and may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, cataracts and heart disease.

Some studies indicate that supplements of these nutrients, which the body does not produce, may provide the same benefits. However, the science is not entirely conclusive, and it is important to evaluate all studies in the context of preceding evidence. Decisions should not be based on a single study.

What are the nutrient levels needed for protection against certain diseases?

Public health authorities recommend a daily intake of 400 mcg of folic acid for women of childbearing age to help reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects. They also recommend daily calcium intakes of no less than 1,000 mg for teens and most adults, and 1,500 mg for post menopausal women, combined with adequate exercise and vitamin D, to help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Many scientists who have studied the role of antioxidant vitamins believe that the following levels are safe and may provide a protective effect: 6-15 mg beta carotene, 250-500 mg vitamin C, and 100-400 IU of vitamin E.

How can optimal levels of nutrients be obtained?

It is possible to get adequate levels of most nutrients through a careful selection of foods but the fact is that most people don't. A government survey of 21,000 people showed that not a single person surveyed obtained 100 percent of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for each of 10 nutrients.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that people eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but unfortunately less than 10 percent of us actually consume five servings of these protective foods daily.

Diet analyses reveal that most Americans consume inadequate levels of vitamins A, C, E, thiamin, riboflavin, B-6, B-12, and folic acid, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, chromium, selenium, and zinc. To ensure the health promotion benefits from some nutrients, our intake may need to be higher than the currently recommended levels. A daily supplement containing these nutrients can help fill the gap between what we actually eat and the amount of nutrients we need to promote optimal health.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: Council for Responsible Nutrition. Distributed with the Assistance of The National Association of Chain Drug Stores. This is intended solely as an informational/educational article and is not intended to promote any specific brand of vitamin or mineral supplement.


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