Should I Take a Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement?
A dietary supplement that contains a combination of vitamins and minerals is called a multivitamin/mineral supplement. Taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement can be beneficial to your health, but it can also involve some risks. Talk to your health care provider to find out if a multivitamin/mineral supplement is right for you.
What is a multivitamin/mineral supplement?
Multivitamin/mineral supplements contain a combination of all or most vitamins and minerals that are included in the Recommended Dietary Allowances. Certain products are available for children, adults, men, women, pregnant women, and seniors to provide different amounts of vitamins and minerals based on the specific needs of these populations.
People take multivitamin/mineral supplements for a variety of reasons, such as to make sure they get enough essential nutrients or potentially help reduce the risk of some conditions. Multivitamin/mineral supplements come in many different forms, such as tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, chewable gummies, liquids, or powders which can be mixed with a food or beverage.
It is important to understand that, unlike medications, multivitamin/mineral supplements and other dietary supplements are not approved or allowed to be marketed to treat or prevent a disease.
Who would benefit from a multivitamin/mineral supplement?
Some people who may benefit from the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements. For example, vegans and vegetarians may need to take multivitamin/mineral supplements with vitamin B12 because vitamin B12 is found in meat.
Pregnant women may be advised to take prenatal vitamins, which contain folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, and iron, which supports the development of the placenta and the fetus.
Seniors may be advised to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement with calcium and vitamin D to slow bone loss.
How do I know if I should take a multivitamin/mineral supplement?
Ask your doctor to order a blood test for you to see which vitamins or minerals you might need to take. Blood tests can show if your body is low in certain vitamins or minerals. Before the blood test, you might be instructed not to eat or drink for several hours.
Can a multivitamin/mineral supplement be harmful?
Typically, multivitamin/mineral supplements are not harmful when taken as directed. However, they can interact with certain medications, for example, blood thinners such as warfarin. People with blood clotting conditions should talk with their doctor before taking multivitamin/mineral supplements containing vitamin K. Vitamin K can block the action of some blood thinners.
Consider your food intake before taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement to make sure that you are not taking too much of a vitamin or mineral. For example, too much vitamin A can be harmful to pregnant women and can cause congenital disabilities.
Smokers and former smokers usually should avoid taking vitamin A or beta-carotene pills, which may increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
Men and postmenopausal women should avoid multivitamin/mineral supplements with too much iron unless they are sure that they have an iron deficiency.
Multivitamin/mineral supplements may be helpful for some patients. Although multivitamin/mineral supplements can be purchased over-the-counter, there may be some risks with using them. Always talk to your pharmacist or health care provider before taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement.
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