Vitamins: How To Keep Your Body Healthy By Using Vitamins Safely
Vitamins are an important part of a health diet. Unlike carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, vitamins do not directly provide building blocks or energy for your body; vitamins function as assistants to your body in creating and breakdown down building blocks and storing and releasing energy.
Vitamins come in two basic types: water-soluble and fat-soluble (see the table on the website below)
If your diet generally follows the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, you will get the recommended daily allowances of vitamins (the amount people generally need). But there are many reasons why these guidelines might not get us the vitamins we need.
* Day-to-day living: In the rush of daily life, it may be hard to eat a consistently balanced diet. Sometimes we skip meals or buy them from sources (like fast-food restaurants) where we do not have easy access to information about nutritional value.
* Pregnancy: If you are pregnant (or breastfeeding), you may need to significantly change your vitamin intake. Folic acid is crucial to the brain and nervous system development of, but at the same time an excess of other vitamins (including vitamin A) can cause serious fetal injury.
* Seniority: Seniors often have difficulties eating or digesting certain foods, including those that can provide vitamins
* Diets: Being on low-calorie diets or diets that restrict certain types of food can significantly impact getting enough of all kinds of vitamins.
So for many of us, vitamin supplements will be helpful in getting and staying healthy. But like anything else we do for our health, it’s as important to know the risks as the benefits.
* The “Too Much of a Good Thing” Trap: Vitamins in the proper doses are good for you. But many vitamins are toxic in large quantities, so taking more than enough may be a bad idea. Excess vitamin A can lead to nausea, vomiting, and peeling skin, and over the long-term can lead to significant damage to bones, brain and nerves. It can also be very dangerous for a developing fetus. Vitamin E can cause a rise in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and like all fat-soluble vitamins, is stored in the liver, so if you take a little bit extra every day, the impact can show up over time. Even vitamin D, the bone-building vitamin, can actually encourage bone loss if taken in excess.
* Vitamins are not food: Vitamins are sometimes called “micronutrients.” Small doses can keep us healthy. However, they are not a substitute for the food that your body needs to make energy and rebuild damaged tissue. Diets that severely restrict or eliminate proteins, fats, or carbohydrates can impair functioning, and vitamins cannot make up for that.
* Fetuses and children are not grown-ups: Children have special vitamins for a reason – their bodies need different things than adults do. Treat children’s supplements like any other medication; they may taste like candy, but letting your child take more than the recommended dose can have significant consequences. To keep a fetus growing steadily and correctly, a vitamin discussion should be part of your regular prenatal care.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines
U.S.D.A. “ Food Guide Pyramid,” [http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/pyramid2.htm]
“Getting enough vitamins. Do you need to supplement a healthy diet?”
Mayo Clinic Womens Healthsource. Volume 3, Issue March 7, p 4-5, 2003
Kmietowicz , Z. “Food watchdog warns against high doses of vitamins and minerals,”
British Medical Journal Volume 326, Issue1001, 2003
Oakley, GP and Mandel JS, “Folic acid fortification remains an urgent health priority,”
British Medical Journal, Volume 329, Issue 7479, p1375-1376, 2004