Dietary & Vitamin Supplements:

Public interest in vitamins and minerals for health has never been higher. Evidence continues to grow that certain supplements can improve health and possibly even prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and the bone disorder osteoporosis.

According to recent surveys, 18-40 percent of North Americans report that they take vitamin and mineral supplements as part of their routine health regime. In the US between 1994 and 2010, sales of supplements grew by nearly 80 percent, from $10.8 billion to an estimated $18.7 billion!

Types of supplements

In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was passed in the US, defining a dietary supplement as a product that is taken orally and contains a dietary ingredient, such as a vitamin or a mineral. Other ingredients include herbs, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and fish oils. They can be extracts or concentrates of the particular ingredient and my be available as capsules, tablets, gel caps, liquids, or powders.

Buyer beware

Despite the form of the supplement, the DSHEA classifies supplements under the category of food, not medication, and it is important for companies to label their products accordingly. Unfortunately, this gives rise to a situation in which the buyer is at risk of purchasing supplements that have absolutely no benefit, such as shark cartilage, or that are potentially harmful, such as the herb ephedra.

Can you take too much?

Harmful effects of vitamins and minerals usually result from taking too much, misusing supplements, or dosage errors. If you are taking large doses of vitamins or minerals, your doctor should be closely monitoring you. The fat-soluble vitamins – vitamin A, D, E, and K – are stored in the liver, and if they are taken in excess may build up to harmful levels more quickly compared to the water-soluble vitamins – the B vitamins and vitamin C.

If you take a supplement, select a sensible one with the levels of nutrients recognized as safe and avoid going over the tolerable upper limit.

 

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