Vitamin supplements: who should use them?
Did you know that some population groups have higher requirements for certain nutrients? For example, premenopausal women need more iron than men. Did you know that some people deliberately avoid certain foods, especially those suffering from food allergies (peanuts, eggs, milk, etc.)? In both of these cases and in a general way, a balanced nutrition meets the nutrients requirements, which makes vitamin and mineral supplements unnecessary. However, some situations deserve particular attention:
- Strict vegetarians who avoid all animal products including milk, eggs, and cheese run the risk of a deficiency in vitamin B12 if they do not eat enough fortified products, such as fortified soy beverages or meat substitutes. A daily supplement of 2.4 µg (µg = microgram) of this vitamin will ensure that their needs are met.
- Pregnant women have higher needs than other women. It’s normal: in addition to their own needs, they have to provide all the nutrients for the development of the fetus! Nutrients needing particular attention are folate (vitamin B9), iron, calcium, and vitamin D. By the way, there are many vitamins specifically designed for pregnant women, such as Materna and PregVit. For more information, check with your doctor or at your local drugstore!
- People over 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D per day, on top of a balanced nutrition. Why? Because vitamin D improves muscular strength, therefore reducing the risk of falling and fracturing bones, and prevents osteoporosis.
- People suffering from intolerances (lactose, gluten, etc.) can unconsciously exclude a food group from their nutrition. For example, people with lactose intolerance limit dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), therefore increasing the risk of deficiency in calcium, vitamins A and D, and proteins. Those intolerant to gluten should avoid the forbidden grain products, but sometimes they should also avoid the grain products they are allowed to eat, such as rice, quinoa, and corn. Therefore, they can suffer from a deficiency in carbohydrates, group B vitamins, iron, and zinc.
If you are healthy and present none of the characteristics mentioned above, a nutrition based on Canada’s Food Guide will meet your needs in vitamins and minerals. Make sure to vary your meals, and to eat foods from each of the four groups (vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk products, meat and alternatives) in the recommended proportions. Don’t forget that taking a multivitamin unnecessarily can also lead to a surplus in vitamins or minerals, which can have health consequences. As in life, in nutrition we have a saying: “Too much is like not enough”!
By Vanessa Martin