On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Do I Really Need to Take a Multivitamin?

From the famous tube of brightly colored Flintstones to the daily multivitamin you swallow every morning as an adult, one stroll through the vitamin aisle of your local store and you’ll probably feel overwhelmed with options. We’re here to teach you the basics and uses of the most common vitamins from A to K.

What is a vitamin?

Required for normal growth and nutrition, vitamins are any group of organic compounds that are needed by the body but which the body is not able to produce. To absorb these nutrients, we must consume the vitamins needed through food or supplements.

There are 13 recognized vitamins needed by the human body. These 13 vitamins are further classified as either fat-soluble or water-soluble.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats. If a person’s fat intake is too low or their fat absorption is compromised, it can be difficult for the body to properly absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

Stored in the fat tissues of the body and also the liver, the body stores fat-soluble vitamins longer than water-soluble vitamins. Because of the tendency for fat-soluble vitamins to remain in the body, it is possible to consume too much of one vitamin and experience side effects from them.

Water- Soluble Vitamins

Rather than being stored in the body’s fat cells, water-soluble vitamins pass through the body and are expelled through urine. Because these vitamins are not stored in the body, they require continuous replacement through a vitamin-rich diet or supplements. As with any vitamin, you should always consult your doctor before taking a new supplement.

Do you really need to take vitamins?

There is often confusion about whether you really need to take vitamins. We asked INTEGRIS Pharmacist Chad Caldwell for some clarity.

Are multivitamins necessary for all people?

No, a healthy diet should provide all the nutrients you need. But many people do not eat a healthy diet, so a multivitamin may help fill the gaps, and may give an added health benefit.

Are there certain groups of people who would benefit more from taking vitamins?

Yes. Here are my recommendations:

  • Infants, children, adolescents, women before and during pregnancy, during lactation and throughout their reproductive period, the elderly and ethnic minorities.
  • People whose nutritional status may be compromised by poor diet.
  • People with lifestyle choices such as smokers, alcoholics, drug misusers, vegans, food faddists and athletes.
  • People undergoing surgery and/or with diseases, such as malabsorption syndromes, hepato-biliary disorders, severe burns and wounds, and inborn errors of metabolism.
  • People on certain long-term medications; for example people on anticonvulsants may need to supplement vitamin D.

Are there certain vitamins that are more beneficial than others?

No, when it comes to the vitamins people may need, it just depends on demographic or lifestyle. However, certain brands and formulations of vitamins are better than others. Normally, you get what you pay for.

Are there any vitamins people should be cautious about?

Yes, but again it depends on the patient’s demographic or lifestyle. Some vitamins interact with certain medications (example: vitamin K interacts with warfarin.) Some vitamins, if taken too much, may be toxic (example: iron.)

Do you have any recommendations for someone who is considering adding vitamins to their daily routine?

When choosing a vitamin or supplement, patients should talk to their health care provider (doctor, pharmacist, nurse or dietitian) to determine the best vitamin or supplement for them. Also, research the manufacturer of the vitamin or supplement, because some manufacturers do produce quality products even though they may be less expensive. I try to choose manufacturers that use peer-reviewed scientific research, have high-quality manufacturer standards, use high-quality raw ingredients and provide therapeutic potency when it comes to dosing.

The 13 Essential Vitamins for Humans

Vitamin A

Type: Fat-Soluble
Purpose: provides the body with beta-carotene, a natural antioxidant.
Found in: carrots, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and pink grapefruit.

Vitamin B

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: essential for glucose metabolism and plays a role in nerve, muscle and heart functions.
Found in: yeast, beef, pork, nuts, whole grains, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, asparagus and kale.

bananas

Vitamin B2

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: helps the body metabolize fats and proteins and aids in helping the nervous system function properly.
Found in: asparagus, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, bananas and green beans.

Vitamin B3

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: essential for glucose metabolism and is needed for a healthy liver, skin, hair and eyes.
Found in: beets, beef, fish, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Vitamin B5

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: breaks down proteins, fats and carbohydrates from food, to aid in energy and tissue repair.
Found in: meats, whole grains, broccoli and avocados.

Vitamin B6

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: provides your body with energy and maintaining brain function.
Found in: bananas, mushrooms, spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, collard greens, sweet potatoes, yam and nuts.

Vitamin B7

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: helps the body metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as processing glucose.
Found in: egg yolks, liver, peanuts, whole-wheat bread, salmon, avocado and cauliflower.

Vitamin B9

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: also known as folic acid, B9 aids in rapid cell division and growth and produces healthy red blood cells.
Found in: asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, egg yolk, cauliflower, lentils, lettuce, milk, oranges, peas, spinach and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B12

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: creates strong hair, nails and skin, as well as aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Found in: nutritional yeast, sea vegetables and blue-green algae.

Vitamin C

Type: Water-Soluble
Purpose: repairs and regenerates collagen.
Found in: citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, red bell peppers and other leafy green vegetables.

Young woman wearing straw hat, portrait

Vitamin D

Type: Fat-Soluble
Purpose: aids in the absorption of calcium and for the formation of healthy bones.
Found in: the sun! Just 20 minutes outside will provide your body with all of its vitamin D needs.

Vitamin E

Type: Fat-Soluble
Purpose: strengthens immune functions and acts as an antioxidant.
Found in: olive oil, almonds and almond products, spinach, asparagus and other leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin K

Type: Fat-Soluble
Purpose: allows blood to clot when you are injured and helps prevent calcification from occurring in the arteries and soft tissues of your body.
Found in: cauliflower, avocado, Brussel sprouts, kiwi fruit, broccoli, parsley and other leafy greens.

If you’re curious about whether or not your diet should include a vitamin supplement, or if you should increase your consumption of specific foods, schedule a visit with your family doctor to discuss your options.

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