|Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW,
is Richard Stockton College's campus nutritionist. She obtained
her BS in Food and Nutriton from the Univ. of Delaware and her Master's
in Nutrition from Penn State Univ.
She provides individual, confidential nutritional counseling to
students. Her service is free for RSC students. For appointments
call extension 5740. Nancy Brinch can be contacted at Nancy.Brinch@stockton.edu
|How to Pick a Vitamin Supplement
By Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW
every adult can benefit from taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
According to researchers at Harvard University many Americans don't
get enough vitamins from food alone. So if you currently don't take
a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, you might want to start.
How to Select a Supplement
Many supplements seem to have no rationale behind the amounts of
vitamins and minerals included. Some have far more than you need.
Even if the high levels are not dangerous, they are a waste of money.
Some supplements include an imbalance of vitamins and minerals.
Here's what to look for in a supplement:
About 100 - 150% of the Daily Value for the following vitamins:
thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B-6, B-12, folic acid, A, C, D, and
Doses of vitamin A (retinol, which is also called vitamin
A palmitate or acetate) should be no greater than 4000 IU (in one
study higher doses increased the risk of hip fracture in women.).
Levels of beta carotene (which can be converted to vitamin A as
needed by the body) should not exceed 15,000 IU (higher doses may
increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.)
Vitamin B-6 should not be higher than 100 milligrams (higher
doses may cause reversible nerve damage.)
Vitamin E should be in the natural form (d-alpha tocopherol)
because this is absorbed better than the synthetic form (d,l-alpha
tocopherol). The recommended dose of vitamin E is 33 IU. Recent
research on high doses of vitamin E (800 IU) has shown no beneficial
effects and some possible disadvantages (women with heart disease
who took 800 IU of vitamin E daily for 3 years were more likely
to die than those who took a placebo). Doses of 200 - 400 IU daily
The National Academy of Science's (NAS) recommended levels
for vitamin C are
90 mg. for men and 75 mg. for women. Many experts recommend 200
mg. daily. Supplements containing 60 mg. of vitamin C are sufficient
if food sources of vitamin C are included in the diet (i.e. orange
juice, citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli,
green and red peppers.) NAS recommends no more than 2000 mg. of
vitamin C daily.
About 100% for the following minerals: chromium, zinc, copper,
and selenium. Taking too much of one mineral can interfere with
another mineral (i.e. taking too much zinc can interfere with the
absorption of copper.)
Iron amounts should be 18 milligrams for premenopausal women
and no more than 9 milligrams for adult males and postmenopausal
Calcium and magnesium at the recommended amounts are too bulky
to fit in a single multivitamin and mineral supplement. Supplemental
calcium and magnesium can be taken in a separate supplement. Calcium
intake from food and supplements should total 1000 milligrams a
day (do not exceed 2500 milligrams). Magnesium intake from both
food and supplements should total 320 milligrams daily for women
and 420 milligrams for men. Getting more than 350 milligrams from
a supplement can cause diarrhea. (Good food sources of magnesium
are whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, beans, and leafy green
The letters "USP" should appear on the label. This stands
for United States Pharmacopeia. This designation means the supplement
meets established standards for disintegration, dissolution, potency,
purity, and expiration date.
Most generic brands are equivalent to their brand name counterparts.
Major supermarket and pharmacy chains as well as major discount
retailers sell supplements that are identical to brand name counterparts.
You can save money by purchasing these "knock-offs."
Multivitamins and minerals should be taken with a meal or snack.
If you take a fiber supplement, leave several hours between taking
the fiber supplement and the multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Fiber can trap minerals making them unavailable to the body.
Remember that taking vitamin and mineral supplements will not give
you a competitive edge. Vitamins and minerals do not provide energy
to the body. They also do not contain fiber and the beneficial phytonutrients
found in plant foods. However, supplements do provide nutritional
insurance with almost no risk as long as these guidelines are followed.