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Neurology: Parkinsons: Are Vitamin Supplements Really Necessary?  Next

Are Vitamin Supplements Really Necessary?

by: Renee Kennedy

It is a fact that vitamins are important to a healthy diet. Without certain vitamins, your body could be at risk for disease. There are some studies on how specific vitamins can help specific illnesses. Some of those studies are mentioned below and references are listed at the end of the article.

However, most of the medical community seems to agree that getting your vitamins from whole foods is much better than taking supplements.

There are exceptions to this. For example, if you’re pregnant, a folic acid supplement may be prescribed by your doctor. Another example is taking doctor recommended vitamin supplements for a specific illness.

Do not take vitamin supplements without consulting your health care provider, especially if you are on any medications or you have any illness or special health conditions (like pregnancy, anemia, heart condition, etc.).

Here are the most important vitamins:

Vitamin A

  • Affects: skin, tissue growth and regeneration, eyes, white blood cells, bone and teeth growth and mucus membranes in mouth, nose, throat, lungs.
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 5,000 IU for men and 4,000 IU for women
  • Whole Foods: whole milk, fat-free milk fortified with vitamin A, whole eggs, liver, beef, chicken, dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, tomato juice.
  • Deficiency Symptoms: teeth and gum problems, fatigue, loss of appetite, dry, scaly skin, increase susceptibility to infection, night blindness. (Vitamin A deficiency would be rare in the United States, it occurs mainly in developing countries where people are malnourished.)
  • Warnings: High doses of Vitamin A from supplements can cause birth defects, liver problems and reduction in bone density.
  • Research: A recent study found that beta carotene along with other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular degeneration. Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins if you have macular degeneration.

Vitamin B6

  • Affects: brain and metabolism
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams
  • Whole Foods: Poultry, fish, pork, eggs, soybeans, oats, whole-grain foods, nuts, seeds and bananas.
  • Deficiency Symptoms: skin problems, anemia in adults, convulsions in infants
  • Warnings: High doses of B6 may cause nerve damage.

Vitamin B9: Folic Acid

  • Affects: developing fetus, red blood cell formation, protein metabolism, growth and cell division
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 400 micrograms
  • Whole Foods: Citrus juices and fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, liver, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, beet greens) and fortified grain products (rice, bread, cereal, pasta).
  • Warnings: High doses over 1500 mcg/day should be avoided as it can cause a variety of symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite.
  • Research: A Folic acid supplement can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus when taken by the mother before and during pregnancy.

Vitamin B12

  • Affects: red blood cells, metabolism and nerves
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 6 micrograms
  • Whole Foods: Meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
  • Deficiency Symptoms: memory loss, disorientation, hallucinations, and tingling in the arms and legs

Vitamin C

  • Affects: skin, immunity to illness, healing of wounds
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women (and an extra 35 mg for smokers)
  • Whole Foods: Citrus juice and fruit, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli and spinach.
  • Deficiency Symptoms: weakness, irritability, weight loss, bleeding gums, infection, gangrene, hemorrhaging, wounds that won’t heal.
  • Warnings: Excess vitamin C may cause mild diarrhea
  • Research: A recent study found that vitamin C along with other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular degeneration. Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins if you have macular degeneration.

Vitamin D

  • Affects: bone, teeth and absorption of calcium
  • Daily Recommended Dosage:
    up to age 50: 5 micrograms
    51 – 70: 10 micrograms
    after 70: 15 micrograms
  • Whole Foods: Vitamin D-fortified milk, vitamin D-fortified cereal, liver, egg yolks, fish and fish liver oils. And Sunlight!
  • Deficiency Symptoms: bone softening
  • Warnings: Prolonged use of excess Vitamin D is not recommended. Can cause kidney damage, high blood pressure, headaches, and other problems.
  • Research: Vitamin D combined with calcium may slow bone loss and reduce fractures.

Vitamin E

  • Affects: red blood cells, reproduction, aging
  • Daily Recommended Dosage: 15 milligrams from food OR 22 IU from natural-source vitamin E OR 33 IU from the synthetic form
  • Whole Foods: Vegetable oils, wheat germ, whole-grain products, avocados, nuts and peanut butter.
  • Warnings: In rare cases when Vitamin E is taken in high doses it can cause many types of symptoms including bleeding and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Research: A recent study found that vitamin E along with other antioxidants and zinc may slow down macular degeneration. Your doctor will prescribe the proper vitamins if you have macular degeneration. Studies have indicated that Vitamin E may slow Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's diseases.

References and important quotes:

American Heart Association Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

"Vitamin or mineral supplements aren’t a substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat and dietary cholesterol."

"Scientific evidence does not suggest that consuming antioxidant vitamins can eliminate the need to reduce blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol or stop smoking cigarettes."

National Eye Institute Age Related Eye Disease Study

"High levels of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by about 25 percent."

American Academy of Pediatrics Folic Acid for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects

"The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the US Public Health Service (USPHS) recommendation that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 µg of folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs)."

Mayo Clinic Using vitamin and mineral supplements wisely (There is quite a bit of information in this article, if you are considering taking vitamin supplements, read this article first.)

"Some nutrients may actually be harmful to your health when taken as a supplement."

"Concentrate on getting your nutrients from food, though, not supplements. Whole foods provide an ideal mix of nutrients, fiber and other food substances. It's likely that all of these work in combination to keep you healthy."

Harvard School of Public Health Vitamins

"There's good evidence that taking a daily multivitamin makes sense for most adults."

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