medicine, medical articles, health


Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


The first and key question is who should take vitamins? Why take vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants if you don't need them. If you are young, healthy and have a good appetite, it is highly likely that you don't require vitamins or other supplements -- that's the short answer and the easy one.

Why do we need a sufficient amount of vitamins? To activate enzyme systems, fight disease, repair injured tissue, provide energy to mention but a few reasons.

Older people often need vitamins and other supplements as well....and for many reasons that go beyond the illness that a person may have. Loss of interest in food, poor appetite (sometimes from medication), dental procedures, depression and many other factors may contribute in one manor or another. Hence vitamins, perhaps minerals and even antioxidants should be considered. (Antioxidants will be discussed in another article, but remember that vitamins E and C are also antioxidants.)

There are 13 essential vitamins -- divided into 2 categories - water soluble and fat soluble. Vitamin C and B complex are soluble in water and are stored in the body, but not for long. When a deficiency occurs it is usually in this group. The fat soluble group - vitamins A D E and K - last longer in the body and are less likely to need replacement.

The "shut in" type patient has yet another problem - no exposure to sunlight. Even 10 to 20 minutes a day is sufficient for vitamin D, which, in turn, helps provide calcium for bones. Calcium is one of the most important minerals, along with iron and magnesium. In a fine article, the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter for April 1999 goes into futher detail.

Most good multivitamins contain enough or the RDA (recommended daily allowance); add to that 1 mgm of B12, and you're in good shape. Many foods also have extra fortification with vitamins. Take the vitamins with food. Avoid mega(big) doses - they are unnecessary and the excess is excreted in the urine. Consult with your doctor, who knows your situation and be especially careful if you are taking a "blood thinner" - vitamin K can cause problems in such a situation. Good common sense helps.

The advice provided on this website is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment. If you need personal medical attention please contact your physician.

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