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Under what circumstances should I take vitamin supplements?

Supplements are useful for people who cannot meet their nutrient needs through a regular, varied diet. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, among those who may benefit from taking a dietary supplement are:

  • Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, as they need to consume adequate amounts of folic acid to prevent certain birth defects
  • Pregnant and lactating women who can’t meet their nutrient needs with food
  • Older individuals, who need adequate amounts of vitamin D and synthetic vitamin B12
  • Individuals who do not drink enough milk and/or do not have adequate sun exposure to meet their vitamin D needs
  • Individuals on low-calorie diets that limit the amount of vitamins and minerals they can consume through food
  • Strict vegetarians, who have limited dietary options for vitamins B12 and D and other nutrients
  • Individuals with food allergies or lactose intolerance that limit food choices
  • Individuals who abuse alcohol, have a poor appetite, have medical conditions such as intestinal disorders, or are taking medications that may increase their need of certain vitamins
  • Individuals who are food insecure and those who are eliminating food groups from their diet
  • Infants who are breast-fed should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily until they are consuming at least 1 quart of formula daily. Children age one and older should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily if they consume less than one quart of milk per day. Adolescents who consume less than 400 IU of vitamin D daily from their diet would also benefit from a supplement.

You should always meet with a registered dietitian (RD) before taking a supplement to make sure that it is appropriate for you based on your diet and medical history. You can find an RD in your area at: www.eatright.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.