Vitamin supplements are among the most advertised products in the field of food supplementation. Just turn on the television, take a tour of the shelves of a supermarket or enter a pharmacy to realize the real spread of the phenomenon.
The message that is often conveyed by the advertising campaigns of these products means that anyone may need to take vitamin supplements, to keep stress under control, to cope with the most intense periods of work / study, to combat aging. or to face the thousand daily tensions. Many, however, wonder if this is true.
In the course of this article, therefore, we will try to answer this doubt by describing the main characteristics, usefulness and effectiveness of vitamin supplements.
Vitamin supplements are Dietary Supplements available in different formulations (for example, tablets, capsules, granules, etc.), containing different types of vitamins and used for supplement normal nutrition.
According to current legislation, these supplements must be considered as food products; therefore, it's not about drugs.
Vitamins in Brief
Vitamins are organic substances essential for the proper functioning of the body belonging to the group of micronutrients. Although some of them are produced by the body, to fully satisfy the needs it is necessary to introduce them in the diet.
Vitamins can be divided into two large groups:
- Vitamins liposolubili, which are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K;
- Vitamins water-soluble, what are the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Vitamins are found in both plant and animal foods; however, many of these are thermolabile, so they tend to decompose with heat. In particular, to be particularly susceptible are the B vitamins and vitamin C which - in addition to decomposing due to the action of high temperatures - are also sensitive to light and contact with water. The fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, do not undergo significant decreases with cooking. In the light of what has just been said, therefore, it is clear that only the intake of fresh and raw food can guarantee the maximum intake of vitamins.
For each vitamin, they have been defined recommended intake levels under which it is good not to go down in order to avoid the onset of deficiencies and related disorders. However, the recommended vitamin levels can be achieved with ahealthy and varied diet.
The table below shows the main sources of vitamins and the most common symptoms that can occur in case of their deficiency.
Type of Vitamin
|Symptoms of deficiency
|Liver, spinach, broccoli, carrots, pumpkins, turnips, oranges, apricots, tomatoes.
|Night blindness, dry mucous membranes, hyperkeratosis.
|Wheat germ, vegetable oils, legumes, fish, green leafy vegetables.
|Red blood cell destruction anemia, neuropathy.
|Green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, soybean oil, green tea.
|Intestinal bacterial synthesis, haemorrhages.
|Fortified milk, fish.
|Rickets (children), osteomalacia (adults).
|Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
|Whole grains, wheat germ, legumes, brewer's yeast, liver, pork.
|Polyneuritis, depression, poor appetite, nervous instability, edema, muscle spasms.
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
|Green leafy vegetables, milk and derivatives, eggs, liver, whole grains.
|Stomatitis, cheilitis, cataracts.
|Niacin (vit. B3)
|Whole wheat flours, fortified flours, legumes, meats, liver.
|Gastrointestinal disorders, dermatitis, depression.
|Whole wheat, potatoes, green vegetables, corn, liver, red meats.
|Convulsions, depression, oral lesions.
|Foods of animal origin: meat, liver, milk and derivatives.
|Spinal cord degeneration, psychiatric disorders, pernicious anemia.
|Folacina (vit. B9)
|Yeast, green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains.
|Psychiatric disorders, neural tube defects.
|Pantothenic acid (vit. B5)
|Legumes, potatoes, durum wheat, liver, eggs.
|Headache, cramps, nausea, exhaustion.
|Biotina (vit. B8)
|Soy, brewer's yeast, milk, eggs, intestinal bacterial production.
|Anemia, depression, insomnia, dermatitis.
|Citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, potatoes.
|Anemia, hematomas, dental alterations.
Symptoms of vitamin deficiency usually arise only in particularly severe situations that can result from diseases o special diets (often incorrect and unbalanced), even more so if continued for long periods of time and carried out without supervision by the doctor or by professional figures such as, for example, that of the dietician or nutritionist. At the same time, vitamin deficiency symptoms can also occur in:
- Elderly subjects (poor diet, malabsorption);
- Alcoholics (poor diet, liver disease, malabsorption);
- People subjected to some drug therapies, such as, for example, chronic anticonvulsant therapy (to learn more, read also: Drugs that cause deficiencies in Vitamins and Minerals);
- Women in pregnancy and that breastfeed breast (increased need);
- Subjects suffering from particular pathologies, such as atrophic gastritis.
In all these cases, the use of vitamin supplements can prove useful in filling the deficiencies of these micronutrients and guaranteeing the subject optimal physical efficiency.
Leaving aside those rare cases in which there is a real vitamin deficiency, it is questionable whether these supplements are also useful for a "normal" person.
Take vitamin C for example: European RDAs recommend a daily dose of 80 mg which can be achieved and exceeded simply by eating a medium sized kiwi.
Other scholars remind us, however, that to appreciate the antioxidant properties of this vitamin, it is necessary to take at least 200 milligrams every day. According to some, these doses should rise to 500-1000 mg / day. To achieve such values it is often necessary to resort to vitamin supplements.
In one of our many dietary examples we have reported the vitamin C values provided by the various menus. By examining these data, we realize that a varied and balanced diet provides 50 to 500 mg of vitamin C per thousand calories every day.
Unfortunately, not all people follow an equally correct diet and, while respecting the minimum recommended intake values, they may need a vitamin supplement. Sport, stress, intense work and more or less important pathologies also increase the body's demands for vitamins which could, therefore, be satisfied by resorting to specific supplements.
In general, before taking vitamin supplements, it is still good to ask for the preventive opinion from your doctor, even more so if you suffer from ailments or diseases of any kind, if you are undergoing drug therapies (in order to avoid potential interactions) or if you are in particular conditions (for example, pregnancy or breastfeeding).
In any case, regarding the usefulness of taking vitamin supplements there are different schools of thought: from the traditionalist one that emphasizes the absolute uselessness of vitamin supplements and prefers to focus on the correct dietary education of the patient, passing through various intermediate stages. , up to the supporters of these products who strongly recommend their use.
The risks of a vitamin overdose through diet are definitely bassi. Even the supplements on the market are designed to contain concentrations of vitamins far below the levels considered dangerous. However, if the recommended doses of these products are exceeded, overdose and the onset of problems related to vitamin abuse cannot be ruled out.
In addition to this, there are particular pathological conditions in which vitamin supplements can become dangerous (for example, in the presence of kidney or liver disorders). For all these reasons, the importance of seek medical advice before purchasing and taking any kind of vitamin supplements.Continued: Advice on Vitamin Supplementation To learn more: Vitamins and minerals: maximum allowable doses in food supplements