Vitamin supplements…any use?

Vitamins and minerals are essential to any diet.  If you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fortified food, you’re probably getting all you need and don’t need supplements unless a physician advises otherwise.  




  • Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and green peppers.  
  • An antioxidant. 
  • Converted to vitamin A and is important for healthy vision, a functioning immune system, and good skin.
  • A 2004 study found that supplements may actually raise the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

    Skip the supplements if you’re a smoker, and try to get your beta-carotene from fruits and veggies, whether you smoke or not.


  • Found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. 
  • Used to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. 
  • Best paired with vitamin D to improve calcium absorption

    Skip supplements if you’re prone to kidney stones or are a female over 70 (a 2010 report linked calcium supplements to heart-attack risk in older postmenopausal women).

Folic acid:

  • Prevents spina bifida in babies. 
  • Found in fortified breakfast cereal, dark green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruit juice, bread, and pasta.

    Getting 800 micrograms a day of this if you are pregnant or lactating is advised.  


  • Critical for the proper functioning of red blood cells — helpls prevents anemia.

    Try to get iron from dietary sources, which also include lean meats, seafood, nuts, and green, leafy vegetables.

      You may may need a supplement if you’re anemic.


  • Not proven for much benefit if your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. 


  • Can even out irregular heart rhythms, and counteract the effects of too much sodium.
  • Found in bananas, raisins, leafy greens, oranges, and milk.

    Consider a supplement if you’re taking diuretics for a heart condition – but only at a doctor’s discretion, as too much potassium can be harmful to people with kidney disease

Vitamin C:

  • Found in citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, and green peppers
  • Not proven to prevent the common cold, though one study suggested that taking vitamin C regularly might reduce the length of a cold by a day. 

    Not great evidence suggesting increasing your intake will combat sniffling and coughing.

Vitamin D:

  • Helps the body absorb calcium;  necessary for bone health.
  • Mostly accessible through sun exposure.  
  • Too little vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children.

    Supplements may benefit if you don’t have much sun exposure, are over 50, or have dark skin.

Vitamin E:

  • Found in safflower oril, peanuts, eggs, fortified cereals, fruits, and green, leafy vegetables.
  • Not noted to prevent cancer or lower the risk of heart attack or stroke in middle-aged and older women.

About cschaffer78

I'm a family practice physician in Evansville, IN. My practice is described as "full-spectrum" family practice, meaning I see patients "from cradle to grave". I care for men and women of all ages, I deliver babies, and even follow my patients when they are hospitalized. Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider
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