Do You Really Need to Take a Vitamin?

Multivitamin/mineral supplements and dietary supplements continue to grow in popularity.  More than half of adults report taking a dietary supplement and over 1/3 reported taking a multivitamin in a 2011 National Centers for Health Statistic brief.  In 2007, sales of dietary supplements reached more than $23 Billion.  With this growth in sales, the number of products available on store shelves is also growing.  Dietary supplements are frequently advertised on television, radio and in magazines.  For many older adults, it can be confusing to understand which vitamins might be right for them.

Let’s sort out the fact from fiction.

Fiction: Supplementing antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E can reduce your risk of cancer.

Fact: An article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated that supplemental vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C do not protect from cancer.  Furthermore, some studies showed that high dose antioxidants may increase cancer risk.

Fiction: If you take a multivitamin, you do not have worry about what foods you eat.

Fact: Vitamins cannot replace the benefits of eating a balanced diet.  Whole foods contain other components, including fiber, which may have positive health effects.

Fiction: Taking vitamin C supplements can ward off the common cold.

Fact: Taking additional vitamin C can decrease the duration and severity of symptoms of a cold when taken regularly.

Fiction: Vitamins are natural and safe.  The more vitamins, the better.

Fact: Most vitamins are synthetic and not derived from actual foods.  Dietary supplements are not subject to the same strict regulations for safety and quality as medications.  Taking large doses of certain vitamins can be dangerous. In addition, some dietary supplements can interact with your medications.Who Should Take Vitamins?

Who Should Take Vitamins?

To get the most health benefits from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, strive to get your daily requirements from eating a balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.  However, those who do not get enough vitamins and minerals due to poor appetite, low-calorie diets, or avoidance of certain groups of foods should consider taking a multivitamin.  Since calcium and vitamin D requirements increase with age, older adults may want to consider taking additional calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. In addition, some older adults have a decreased ability to absorb B12 from whole foods.  Increasing your intake of fortified foods or taking a supplement containing B12 may be beneficial.

Before deciding to add a multivitamin or any other dietary supplement, discuss it with your doctor.  Adding a vitamin to your daily routine should be carefully considered.  Taking unnecessary dietary supplements not only can negatively affect your health, but can also take a hefty toll on your wallet.

Beverage supplements may also be beneficial in assisting you to achieve a balanced diet.  MED PASS® Fortified Nutritional Shakes are a ready to serve shake providing 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance for 20 vitamins and minerals in an 8 fluid ounce serving.  Another option includes HORMEL SOLUTIONS™ Shake Mixes, which are an easy to prepare cost effective supplement alternative.  They provide 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance for 19 vitamins and minerals in an 8 fluid ounce serving.  All of these products are available online for home delivery at


Gahche J, Bailey R, Burt V, et al. Dietary supplement use among U.S. adults has increased since NHANES III (1988–1994). NCHS data brief, no 61. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.

Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient Supplementation. J Am Diet Associ. 2009;109:2073-2085.

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Multivitamin/mineral Supplementation. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Reviewed January 7, 2013.

Dietary Supplements and Cancer Prevention: Balancing Potential Benefits Against Proven Harms. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012;104:732-739.

Mara Lee Beebe, MS, RD, LD, CNSC is registered dietitian who is passionate about nutrition and promoting health and wellness. She currently works as clinical dietitian at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC.  Mara Lee specializes in caring for oncology and gastrointestinal surgery patients. Mara Lee works with patients to optimize their nutrition and overcome malnutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment or surgery.   Mara Lee graduated from Ashland University with a Bachelors of Science.  She went on to receive her Masters in Nutrition from Bowling Green State University, where she also completed her dietetic internship.  Mara Lee is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Society for Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition.

Professional service paid for by Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc.

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