Good nutrition means making appropriate food choices and consuming a wide variety of foods in moderate amounts, which decreases the risk of inadequate and excessive nutrient intakes. There are many different reasons why people choose to use supplements; healthy people use supplements to prevent illness and slow ageing, while sick people use them to combat illness.
Dietary supplements are important for some at-risk groups, for example:
The following groups of people may also need to use supplements:
Low-dose multivitamins may benefit those people whose dietary intakes are limited either due to weight loss or illness, but they are of little benefit to those people who are consuming a variety of foods. Interestingly, people who choose to take supplements generally have a higher dietary intake of nutrients that those who don’t take supplements.
There are still many components of foods that are not fully understood. By choosing a supplement over a food source for a nutrient, you may miss out on some of the protective factors present in foods. The cost of supplements compared to the cost of food needs to be considered, for example,the cost of purchasing Vitamin C tablets rather than a bag of oranges.
If choosing a multivitamin, choose a supplement that offers up to 100% recommended daily intake (RDI). Supplements offering 200-300% of the RDI will either be excreted in the urine in the case of water-soluble vitamins, whilst with fat soluble vitamins the effects could be toxic. It is also important to take into account the level of the particular nutrient that the body is already receiving from the diet.
Before taking any form of supplement it is important to check with a medical professional.