Although supplements are available for every type of vitamin and mineral, most experts advise obtaining nutrients through diet. "Dietary supplements aren't intended to be a food substitute because they can't replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods," notes MayoClinic.com. This resource says that supplements are usually only beneficial if you have a health condition. Actually, there are some risks to vitamin supplements as well. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should take them.
Disadvantages Compared to Diet
According to MayoClinic.com, vitamin supplements have disadvantages when compared to obtaining nutrients through your diet. Whole foods encompass a number of different vitamins, whereas if you take a vitamin C supplement, you only obtain vitamin C and are missing a number of other essential vitamins. While a multivitamin will give you a number of nutrients, it still has disadvantages. Unlike vitamin supplements, many foods have fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals that can improve your health and ward off disease, notes MayoClinic.com.
Some vitamin supplements can be dangerous if you ingest too many of them. There are two different types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Extra water-soluble vitamins leave the body in urine, with the exception of vitamin B12, which is stored in the body. All fat-soluble vitamins stay in the body, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In "Clinical Methods," Thomas E. Edes explains that many people take "megadose supplements," which can cause too much of the vitamin to store in the body. Since fat-soluble vitamins can build up, there is more of a risk of problems with them than with water-soluble vitamins. Too much vitamin A, for example, can cause hair, skin and bone problems, headaches and irritability. Overuse of vitamin D can cause kidney stones, tiredness and mental health problems. Vitamin C is an exception in the water-soluble category, as too much of it can cause kidney stones and gastrointestinal problems.
No FDA Regulation
Another problem with vitamin supplements is that they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the same way medications are. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, explains that companies can put their supplements on the market before showing they are safe and effective. Although the FDA can take the product off the market if it determines the supplement is unsafe, products may be on store shelves for a length of time before the FDA determines their characteristics. Furthermore, the NCCAM notes that vitamin supplements can interact negatively with other medications you are taking. This is why it is important to let your doctor know about all the medications and supplements you take.