Authored by Revere Health

Should You Take Supplements?

April 26, 2018 | Family Medicine

You may have heard from a young age that you are supposed to take a multivitamin to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but is there any truth behind this statement?

Doctors recommend that whenever possible, it’s best to get as many of your nutrients as you can from the food you consume, as stated by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. But getting the optimal amount of nutrients may not be possible for everyone, so taking supplements to boost nutritional intake can be beneficial for some people.

There’s a lot of information out there on this subject, and in the end, the determination about whether to take supplements often comes down to an individual choice you make after consulting with your doctor. That said, here’s some basic guidance on what we know about vitamins and supplements and whether you should consider them.

Finding the right supplement

If you’ve decided to take a supplement, it’s vital that you find one that works for your body, and with any medication you may be prescribed. Talking to your doctor before beginning any dietary change is essential. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps a list of supplements that are being reviewed or may cause negative effects, they do not actively regulate this industry in the same way they do for prescription medications. There may be health claims included on some supplements that have yet to be proven, or are blatantly untrue.

In general, here are a few tips for what you should do if you think a supplement is right for you:

  • Talk to your doctor: Ask about possible side effects, combinations, and interactions with surgery or any other medical procedures you may need.
  • Keep track of your nutritional intake: Vitamins and minerals are included in lots of foods, and if you aren’t careful, you may be getting far more of a certain nutrient than you think or need. This is not only expensive, but can pose health risks.
  • Look at labels: Product labels give you an accurate idea of what kinds of nutrients are in the foods you eat and help tell you how much of a given nutrient supplement you might need.
  • Avoid taking too much: “Megadoses” of supplements are extremely harmful to treat things like obesity, depression and other conditions. These can cause major side effects including injury and death, particularly among children, and are not considered effective treatments.

So, when should you consider supplements?

Healthy people whose diets includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and some fish might not need supplements at all. However, there are a few situations where it might be advisable to take supplements or eat foods fortified with certain nutrients:

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin containing iron or an iron supplement. In addition, women who may become pregnant in the near future should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day from supplements or fortified foods—this is in addition to eating foods with natural quantities of folate.
  • Age 50 or older: Adults in this age range should eat foods like fortified cereals, which have extra amounts of vitamin B-12. They can also consider taking a multivitamin with B-12 in it, or simply a B-12 supplement.
  • Age 65 or older: People at this age or older should take a daily quantity of 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D—doing so may reduce fall risk.

Dietary supplements may also be appropriate if:

  • You are a vegan or vegetarian, or if you follow any other kind of diet that limits an entire food group
  • You eat an unhealthy diet or eat fewer calories than you should
  • You are a woman with heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • You get under two or three servings of seafood per week (seafood has important omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for your heart health)
  • You have a medical condition that affects the way your body uses nutrients—examples include diarrhea, allergies and food intolerances, or diseases in the liver, gallbladder, intestines or pancreas
  • You have lactose intolerance (milk allergy) or any other condition or preference that prevents you from consuming enough dairy
  • You have had surgery on the digestive tract, resulting in an inability to properly digest and absorb nutrients

It’s important to remember that supplements shouldn’t simply replace food. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables still offer better nutrition overall, plus vital fibers and protective antioxidants your body needs – and there’s evidence that supplements don’t offer the same benefits in all these areas.

Speak with your doctor about whether supplements might benefit you.


Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages, and committed to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life.



“Vitamins: Separating Fact From Fiction.” WebMD.

“Supplements: Nutrition in a pill?” The Mayo Clinic.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.