There has been a long-standing debate in the medical community as to whether vitamins and other nutritional supplements are worth taking. Some believe that they are unnecessary and, in some cases, harmful. While I agree that ideally, nutrients should be derived from whole foods, the reality is that most people (1) don’t eat optimal diets or exercise regularly and (2) are exposed to a range of environmental toxins in their daily lives. Given this, nutritional supplements can be a key component to achieving and maintaining good health.
Keep in mind, vitamins and other nutritional supplements are meant to do just that – supplement. Just because you take a multi-vitamin doesn’t mean you can subsist on a Standard American Diet (SAD) and be free and clear of health issues. Supplements are meant to correct nutritional deficiencies and can be critical for people with chronic health conditions that limit their ability to absorb and assimilate certain nutrients. Take Vitamin D, for example. Vitamin D is only available in a limited number of foods, so it can be difficult to obtain normal levels from diet alone. For people who live in northern climates, it can be an even greater challenge, as they lack adequate sun exposure in the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency is also very common in people with celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases. Therefore, Vitamin D supplementation makes sense for many people.
If you do decide to take nutritional supplements, quality is key. Unlike pharmaceuticals, the federal Food and Drug Administration does not regulate nutritional supplements. So, in a lot of cases, you get what you pay for. I recommend that you (1) consult with a qualified health professional before beginning any nutritional supplementation to make sure the type, form, and dose are appropriate for you; (2) take them consistently; and (3) use high quality supplement brands. Many “pharmaceutical grade” nutritional supplements can only be purchased from health care providers and are not sold directly to the public. See my “Supplements “page for more information on some of these brands.