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Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins

Develop a Vitamin Strategy

It is important for consumers to have an overall strategy for how they will achieve adequate vitamin intakes. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that nutrient needs be met primarily through consuming foods, with supplementation suggested for certain sensitive populations.

These guidelines, published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provide science-based advice to promote health and to reduce risk for chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. They form the basis for federal food, nutrition education, and information programs.

Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D., Director of FDA's Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, says, "The Guidelines emphasize that supplements may be useful when they fill a specific identified nutrient gap that cannot or is not otherwise being met by the individual's intake of food." She adds, "An important point made in the guidelines is that nutrient supplements are not a substitute for a healthful diet."

Special Nutrient Needs

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many people consume more calories than they need without taking in recommended amounts of a number of nutrients. The Guidelines warn that there are numerous nutrients—including vitamins—for which low dietary intake may be a cause of concern. These nutrients are:

  • calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A (as carotenoids), C, and E (for adults)
  • calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E (for children and adolescents)
  • vitamin B-12, iron, folic acid, and vitamins E and D (for specific population groups).

Regarding the use of vitamin supplements, the Dietary guidelines include the following:

  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups. At the same time, choose foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Meet recommended nutrient intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as one of those recommended in the USDA Food Guide or the National Institute of Health's Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.
  • If you're over age 50, consume vitamin B-12 in its crystalline form, which is found in fortified foods or supplements.
  • If you're a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, eat foods high in heme-iron and/or consume iron-rich plant foods or iron-fortified foods with an iron-absorption enhancer, such as foods high in vitamin C.
  • If you're a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant or is in the first trimester of pregnancy, consume adequate synthetic folic acid daily (from fortified foods or supplements) in addition to food forms of folate from a varied diet.
  • If you are an older adult, have dark skin, or are exposed to insufficient ultraviolet band radiation (such as sunlight), consume extra vitamin D from vitamin D-fortified foods and/or supplements.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA