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Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins

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Vitamins are essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy life. Although most people get all the vitamins they need from the foods they eat, millions of people worldwide take supplemental vitamins as part of their health regimen.

Why Buy Vitamins?

There are many good reasons to consider taking vitamin supplements, such as over-the-counter multivitamins. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a doctor may recommend that you take them:

  • for certain health problems
  • if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Vitamin Facts

Your body uses vitamins for a variety of biological processes, including growth, digestion, and nerve function. There are 13 vitamins that the body absolutely needs: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). AAFP cites two categories of vitamins.

  • Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by the body, which doesn't store large amounts. The kidneys remove those vitamins that are not needed.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed into the body with the use of bile acids, which are fluids used to absorb fat. The body stores these for use as needed.

Practice Safety with Dietary Supplements

When it comes to purchasing dietary supplements, Vasilios Frankos, Ph.D., Director of FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, offers this advice: "Be savvy!"

Today's dietary supplements are not only vitamins and minerals. "They also include other less familiar substances such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes," Frankos says. "Check with your health care providers before combining or substituting them with other foods or medicines." Frankos adds, "Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your health care providers to determine how best to achieve optimal health."

Consider the following tips before buying a dietary supplement:

  • Think twice about chasing the latest headline. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study touted by the media. Be wary of results claiming a "quick fix" that departs from scientific research and established dietary guidance.
  • More may not be better. Some products can be harmful when consumed in high amounts, for a long time, or in combination with certain other substances.
  • Learn to spot false claims. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Examples of false claims on product labels include:
  • Quick and effective "cure-all"
  • Can treat or cure disease
  • "Totally safe," "all natural," and has "definitely no side effects"
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