More than 50% of Americans take dietary supplements, yet many people are not sure which ones to take, how much to take or when to take them. Here are the answers to your most frequently asked questions about vitamins and supplements.
What time of day should I take vitamins and other nutritional supplements?
preferably with your largest meal of the day. Most people prefer to take them with their breakfast or lunch. It’s important to remember that it’s better to take your supplements with food in order to help with proper digestion, absorption and optimum utilization.
However, not all supplements should be taken with food and best utilized when on an empty stomach before a meal. That’s why it’s essential to read the label directions.
As an example, plant sterols and stanols as found in products like Super Sterol Protein Complex and Cholesto-Plex should are best taken before mealtimes. If you are taking plant sterol supplements to help promote healthy cholesterol levels, try to take them 15-30 minutes before a meal for optimal effectiveness.
How do I decide which vitamin and nutritional supplements are best for me?
Determining which supplements you should take begins with properly understanding your diet. If specific nutrients are missing from your regular diet, it’s best to consult a nutritional healthcare practitioner or talk to your primary health care provider. To help assure fulfillment of nutrient “gaps” many people choose a comprehensive daily multivitamin & mineral supplement. It’s the most convenient and effective way to assure optimal vitamin and mineral levels.
If you are looking for the most appropriate formulation for you, be sure to identify one that is formulated to meet your specific age-related, personal fitness level and basic gender needs. For example, iron requirements for women over age of 50 are typically 8 mg per day while the needs for women under 50 are 18 mg per day. Multivitamins for women over the age of 50 should contain little to no iron because 8 mg per day can usually be acquired through the regular diet.
A multivitamin for men over the age of 50 should not contain iron and may often include other ingredients that may not typically be included in a woman’s multiple vitamin such as Lycopene, L-Carnitine, L-Histidine, Saw Palmetto, etc.
Conversely, a good woman’s multi-vitamin supplement may contain ingredients not included in a man’s formula such as: Herbal Black Cohosh, Gamma Linoleic Acid, Calcium, Iron, etc.
While a multivitamin is ideal for supplementing basic vitamins and minerals, some people need more than one single multi-combination formula. For example, many people today are advised to take extra vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D. Some people cannot tolerate milk or milk products, the most potent sources of calcium, and many people do not maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. Although a multivitamin provides these nutrients, it may not supply enough of each to keep your levels adequate.
If you don’t consume at least two to three servings of fatty fish (i.e. salmon, anchovies, sardines) each week then you should consider taking a daily fish oil supplement. If you take a statin drug to lower your cholesterol levels, you may be at risk of low blood levels of coenzyme Q10, and otherbeneficial antioxidant nutrients that protect your heart. Thus, if you’ve been prescribed statin drug, taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement could be very valuable.
Can you take too much?
Many supplements can be safely taken in amounts greater than the Recommended Daily Value (DV) or Recommended Daily allowance (RDA). The percent daily value (%DV) displayed on the label denotes what percent of the recommended intake amount for a specific nutrient is met per serving.
Numerous studies have shown that taking certain nutrients in amounts greater than 100% DV may have valuable health benefits. For example… Consuming higher levels of Vitamin C, Beta Carotene and Vitamin E may promote stronger immune function and help protect the body against free radical damage.
When taking supplements including herbs, vitamins, minerals etc. it is important to follow the suggested use, dosage and to consider which is the highest amount that can be safely consumed. Before taking any vitamin or supplement, be sure to carefully review the precautions and instructions on the product’s label.
Can I take supplements with my prescription medications?
Be sure to inform your doctor or healthcare practitioner about all the dietary supplements you take, even if you take them occasionally. This is especially important because some dietary supplements may interfere with prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, perhaps causing those prescriptions and OTCs to be less effective.
Conversely, some medications cause certain nutrients levels to drop and so taking supplements can help support your nutrient status and overall health when taking such drugs. Statin drugs, for example, have been known to lower blood levels of the antioxidant nutrient coenzyme Q10. To that end, individuals taking statin drugs are often advised to supplement with coenzyme Q10.
It’s important to let your doctor know the dosage and the frequency of use for all the supplements you are taking. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about potential nutrient depletions that may occur with your medication(s) so you can be sure to restore those key nutrient levels with proper supplementation.
Can I take supplements after the expiration date?
When a vitamin nutritional supplement expires, it is not necessarily harmful to consume. Expiration dates on most dietary supplements are actually “best if used by” guidelines.
However, the active ingredients may no longer be up to the potency specified on the label. If in doubt about an expired product, you may want to discard that product and purchase a fresh, new batch.
Can I cut vitamin and nutritional supplement tablets into smaller pieces if I can’t swallow them whole?
Most supplements may be cut in half, milled into powder or chewed if swallowing is a problem.
Softgels (soft gelatin capsules) that are too large for you to comfortably swallow may be punctured or cut in half to empty the contents into a spoon or food.
Two-piece hard shell gelatin capsules may be opened easily to release the contents into food or a beverage.
Be advised, the only products not recommended to cut into smaller pieces are those that are timed-release or enteric coated. Such supplements should be swallowed whole to assure the best performance.
Where is the best place to store vitamins and nutritional supplements?
Storage directions are commonly explained on a vitamin label. Most often, storing the bottles in a cool, dry place with the cap tightly sealed is recommended. Certain formulations may require special storage conditions such as refrigeration.
Always keep these products out of reach of children and pets.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.
- Vitamins: Good, Bad, or Indifferent? (drkennethorbeck.com)
- How to Choose a Multivitamin Supplement (webmd.com)
- Why do I need nutritional supplements? USANA Scientists Explain! (lugenfamilyoffice.com)
- Vitamin D3 “Why take it?” (childrenshealthnaturally.wordpress.com)