About one third of adults in the United States take a multivitamin supplement, but most of them don’t need them. Multivitamins may be marketed to benefit brain functions, improve heart health, or strengthen the immune system, but these claims are not proven. People with a healthy diet can get all the vitamins they need from food. The body is also better at absorbing vitamins from food, rather than pills. Restrictive diets like vegan, gluten-free or paleo will still provide adequate nutrients. Even people who have a less than ideal diet will likely get enough nutrition because many foods in the U.S. are fortified with vitamins.
Some people who might benefit from vitamins are:
- Women planning to become pregnant- folic acid can prevent birth defects
- People who have had bariatric surgery- these patients may not absorb enough vitamins from food
- Patients with cystic fibrosis- these patients often do not produce enough of the pancreatic enzyme lipase to absorb sufficient amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K)
- People with celiac disease- inflammation in the intestines can decrease absorption of vitamins
- Patients who have had portions of the small intestine removed- this may be needed due to injury, disease, or a birth defect, and can lead to reduced absorption of vitamins
- Patients with Whipple disease- this is a rare bacterial infection that can damage the small intestine and decrease absorption of nutrients
- Patients with osteoporosis who need additional calcium and vitamin D
- Patients with a diagnosed vitamin deficiency
- People with anemia may need an iron supplement, vitamin B-12, and folic acid
For all of the above conditions, a patient should be under the care of a physician. If you think you need a vitamin supplement, ask your doctor.
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