Are You Taking Your Vitamins Correctly? Common Mistakes People Make While Taking Supplements

Your body requires a sufficient amount of nutrients to function effectively. Inadequate or low levels of vitamins and minerals can often lead to nutritional deficiencies, triggering symptoms, such as mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, brittle hair and nails, fatigue, weakness and poor eye health.

Ideally, a balanced diet that includes foods rich in protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamin A, K, B12, C, and minerals like iron, magnesium, help keep your body healthy and in shape. However, when it becomes impossible to keep a track and you start experiencing the consequences, that’s when dietary supplements come into play.

In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Bhavisha Khuman, Nutritionist and Dietician, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai, shared that many people take supplements to meet their daily recommended intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Besides discussing the common supplements, she also shed light on the mistakes people make when it comes to supplements. Let’s get into the details.

What Are Supplements?

Dietary supplements, also referred to as nutritional supplements are products that add to or supplement the diet. It is designed to provide you with the nutrients that might be missing from your diet or if you aren’t getting enough from the foods you’re eating. They often come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies, and powders as well as drinks and energy bars.

According to the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (NIHODS), dietary supplements are likely to cause side effects if taken at “high doses, or instead of prescribed medicines, or if you take many different supplements”.

Common supplements include:

Vitamin D: This essential vitamin plays a key role in maintaining bone health. It helps your body absorb calcium, which is one of the main building blocks for strong bones. While Sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D, supplements can help when there is a deficiency. According to Khuman, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D varies by age and individual needs but typically ranges from 400-800 IU (International Units) for most adults. However, it can be higher for some individuals, particularly those with deficiencies.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is great for your immunity and your skin. When it comes to vitamin C supplements, the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is around 75-90 milligrams for women and men. Smokers may need more.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is important for your nerve health and many other bodily functions. Low levels can even lead to neurological problems. Since vitamin B12 is most often found in animal products, vegetarians and vegans may be at risk of b12 deficiency and may require supplements. The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is about 2.4 micrograms for adults.

Iron: Iron is a mineral your body requires to make haemoglobin, a protein in Red Blood Cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Iron supplements are recommended for those who have a deficiency, including pregnant women and children, and people who are at risk of developing anaemia. The recommended daily intake of iron varies by age, sex, and life stage but is typically around 8-18 milligrams for adult men and women.

Calcium: Calcium helps maintain healthy bones and teeth. For those who are on calcium supplements, the recommended daily intake for adults is around 1,000-1,200 milligrams, depending on age and sex.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to promote brain and heart health. Older adults and people who are at risk of serious conditions like heart disease are most in need of this nutrient.

“It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine your specific nutritional needs and whether supplementation is necessary,” advised Khuman.

What NOT To Do When It Comes To Taking Supplements

Some of the common mistakes people make while deciding to take supplements include:

  • Not seeking guidance from a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement
  • Trying to self-diagnose and treat health conditions with supplements, which can be risky
  • Taking excessive amounts of supplements, especially fat-soluble vitamins or minerals
  • Not choose reputable brands and ignoring quality and safety
  • Mixing supplements without understanding potential interactions
  • Skipping a balanced diet because you’re on supplements
  • Ignoring side effects and not informing your doctor

Conclusion

When it comes to supplements, not everyone needs it. Your food should be enough to give you the required amount of nutrients. Remember that vitamin supplements should never be considered a replacement for a healthy diet. People who may need dietary supplements are usually women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who consume excess alcohol, and the elderly.

People who take high doses of supplements often subject themselves to side effects. For instance, “too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and may damage the liver and other organs,” shares the NIHODS. Therefore, consult your doctor or dietitian before making any decisions around taking supplements.

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