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Taking Extra Vitamins When You Need Dietary Supplements

The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) protect people with a healthy diet from deficiencies, but sometimes your lifestyle or circumstances mean you need extra vitamins and nutrients in your diet. See if any of the following apply to you:

  • I’m taking medication: Some drugs increase or decrease the effectiveness of vitamins; some vitamins increase or decrease the effectiveness of drugs.

  • I’m a smoker: You probably have abnormally low blood levels of vitamin C. Chemicals from tobacco smoke create more free radicals in your body. Even the National Research Council, which is tough on vitamin overdosing, says that regular smokers need to take about 66 percent more vitamin C — up to 100 mg a day — than nonsmokers.

  • I never eat animals: Vegans cannot get enough vitamin D without taking supplements. Vegans also benefit from extra vitamin C because it increases their ability to absorb iron. And vitamin B12 — enriched grains or supplements are a must to supply nutrients found only in fish, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs.

  • I’m a couch potato who plans to start working out: When you do head for the gym, take an extra dose of vitamin E. A study at the USDA Center for Human Nutrition at Tufts University (Boston) suggests that an 800 milligram vitamin E supplement every day for the first month after you begin exercising minimizes muscle damage.

  • I’m pregnant: You’re the sole source of nutrients for the growing fetus. If you don’t get the vitamins you need, neither will your baby.

  • I’m breast-feeding: You need extra vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, and folate to produce sufficient quantities of nutritious breast milk, about 750 milliters 3/4 liter) each day. You need extra vitamin D, vitamin C, and niacin to replace the vitamins you lose.

  • I’m approaching menopause: Older women require extra calcium to stem bone loss that occurs when they reach menopause and their production of estrogen declines. They may also need extra vitamin D to absorb the calcium. Adding vitamin D supplements to calcium supplements increases bone density in older men as well.

    The current RDA for vitamin D is set at 5 micrograms/200 IU for all adults, but the new AI (Adequate Intake) for vitamin D is 10 micrograms/400 IU for people ages 51 to 70 and 15 micrograms/600 IU or more for people 71 and older.

  • I have very light skin or very dark skin: Getting enough vitamin D from sunlight is hard to do when you have very light skin and avoid the sun for fear of skin cancer. Even more difficult is getting enough vitamin D when you have very dark skin, which acts as a kind of natural sunblock.

    When Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers surveyed the vitamin D status of more than 2,000 African American and Caucasian women ages 15 to 49, they found low body levels of vitamin D in 42 percent of the African American women and 4.2 percent of the Caucasian women.

    Based on these numbers, Boston University researchers suggest that the Recommended Dietary Amount for adults who don’t get enough sunlight may be as much as four times the current recommended amount. Check this out with your doctor; it’s very important news for women who are or hope to be pregnant and need extra vitamin D.

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