Do You Need a Dietary Supplement?


Who needs a multivitamin/mineral supplement? You can answer the following questions for yourself (and always check with your physician before taking specific supplements!):
  • Do you have a nutrient deficiency (perhaps related to a condition that interferes with absorption, such as cystic fibrosis? atrophic gastritis? anemia?) If so, your physician will probably have you take some supplementation.
  • Is your food intake usually less than 1200 kcal/day? (This is too low to meet micronutrient intake goals from food alone).
  • Do you eat an all plant diet (you’re a vegan)? If so, you need to eat foods fortified with B12 or take B12 supplements. (You also need to be getting vitamin D fortified in your foods). Other micronutrients you will need to be sure you are getting enough of are calcium, iron and zinc.
  • If you bleed excessively during menstruation, you may need iron.
  • People who are lactose intolerant need calcium supplementation since they usually avoid dairy. They may also need vitamin D supplementation.
  • People in certain life stages need supplementation. For example, during pregnancy (prenatal vitamins/minerals), or prior to getting pregnant (folate), women competitive athletes (iron), or the elderly (may need extra D to help maintain bone health, and may need B12 if they have atrophic gastritis).
  • People who must restrict sun exposure, and so can’t make adequate D by exposing skin to sun.
  • People who are recovering from diseases, surgery, infections that interfere with absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract, or who have chronic diseases that interfere with absorption (Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.).
  • People who take medications that may interfere with absorption of specific nutrients may need supplementation.
  • If a person’s diet that is high in processed foods, convenience foods, fast foods, and low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may benefit from a simple multivitamin-mineral supplement. You don’t need a super-ultra-mega supplement! Such high potency supplements are expensive, often just get lost in the toilet (expensive, colorful urine!), or may even pose risks for toxicity—doses that are high enough to be harmful.

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