Your Guide to Taking Vitamins


By: , – Cheryl Platzman Weinstock, Family Circle
  :  22 comments   :  26,483 Views

Karon Warren has been popping a daily multivitamin for years. "I'm so busy that I don't eat like I should," says the 41-year-old working mom of two from Ellijay, Georgia. Although she's moving in a million directions, shuttling her kids between school, dance and tumbling lessons, she couldn't help but notice recent headlines. "Every time a new study comes out about vitamins, I become a little concerned," Karon admits. "But I've had no side effects and always get a clean bill of health from my doctor. I'm sticking with them."
Karon is not alone. More than half of American adults rely on at least one supplement to become—or stay—healthy. But recent research suggests the practice may not do a body good after all. In a study of nearly 40,000 women, a slightly reduced life expectancy was reported for those taking multivitamins, folic acid and iron. 
So do you dump your supplements along with last week's leftovers? "Nobody should change their behavior based on a single study," says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Family Circle Health Advisory Board member and professor of nutrition at Tufts University. "Their safety has been well established by 50-plus years of research." Instead, create a customized plan with your doctors before you stock your medicine cabinet. Take our expert advice to your next appointment to start the conversation about which supplements to swallow, which to swear off and which brands are best.
Before You Take That Pill...
Seventy-nine percent of physicians recommend vitamins to their patients for bone, joint, heart and overall health, according to a survey funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade association. Get the scoop on some of the top ones for moms like you.
Click here for more information on taking vitamins.
More Great Articles From Family Circle:What vitamins do you take to optimism your health?

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  • 22
    Due to my illness, I have been on diet streak for almost 10 years. For me, a daily vitamin along with a healthy breakfast seems to help. - 12/4/2013   8:44:49 AM
  • 21
    I have mixed feelings about taking supplements. I try to eat really well, but I also take a low dose multi vitamin and a few other supplements. I'm not sure if they're helping me or just wasting my money... - 6/5/2012   10:29:33 AM
  • 20
    I take a multi, but I also take many other vitamins, C, B, D, Calcium, zinc, Omega 3.
    I used to take E, then I heard it was doing our hearts more bad, than good. I stopped them, then. I do take iron as well, but only for a short time, as I recently got my knee replaced and the Dr. recommended it. - 3/15/2012   5:23:11 PM
    I take a Multics and many supplements. I hadmy physical yesterday and my bloodwork came back in a new format, including genetic markers, and minerals. My doc told me to cut nothing back, it was all working well for me. I was so relieved--my friends and family give me so much grief about my supplements. - 3/15/2012   2:03:57 PM
    Studies have proven your body does not absorb most of the vitamins found in supplements. I try to make sure I eat a balanced diet and have never found myself short of anything upon testing. - 3/15/2012   12:57:52 PM
  • 17
    I take multiple and some others for my health. I try to eat fresh as much as possible but with prices, especially in winter, it is difficult. Summertime is different with the fresh local produce and what I can grow in the garden. But I try to reassess every now and then as I try to improve my eating. If I stop on the echinacea and Vit C I usually start to come down with something. Same with Glucosamine if I stop then the aches and pains of joints start showing their ugly head. - 3/14/2012   3:01:04 PM
  • 16
    I have always been wary of multi-vitamins, not that I'm opposed to them or think they're bad or anything. I always wondered how they could be helping me since most multi-vitamins contain far more than the daily amount of any given vitamin or mineral that you need. And from what I understand, anything that isn't immediately absorbed is excreted by the body. So you can't absorb 100% of your recommended daily amount in one sitting (this is true of vitamins/minerals from foods too). I recently had a full physical and asked my doctor about multi-vitamins and my worry about not getting enough vitamins & minerals. She is not a fan of multi-vitamins either for the same reason I was wary of them. I don't know if it pertains to potassium only but she told me that I shouldn't worry about not getting enough potassium since my kidneys will adjust their function even if I'm not getting the recommended daily amount. She said that if I did have any sort of deficiency, that I should only supplement with that particular vitamin. As it turns out, I have low vitamin D so I now supplement with 2000 IU of D3 daily. I guess I'll find out next year at my next physical whether or not it's helping. - 3/14/2012   11:13:10 AM
  • 15
    I have trouble getting proper nutrients naturally on my budget, so I take a multivitamin for women 50+ and tons of Vitamin C. I also take glucosamine and chondroitin religiously, because as long as I maintain a steady intake, the osteoarthritis in my knee is manageable, and far more painful when I have lapsed because of the cost. - 3/14/2012   11:09:41 AM
  • 14
    I wouldn't listen to a doctor regarding what supplements to take. Western doctors get practically no nutrition in med school. I listen to my naturopath, a Chinese doctor or a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I take a number of supplements including calcium-magnesium, K, D3, krill oil, antioxidants and B vitamins.

    Most of our food supply is compromised from mass production, genetic engineering and travel. I buy local when I can and organic as often as possible. - 3/14/2012   10:35:45 AM
  • 13
    I take a multivitamin, fish oil and calcium. I think we have to question what we are putting into our bodies all the time. Do I really need this? If you listened to all the "Dr." shows on TV you would have a cabinet full of pills. Not for me! - 3/14/2012   9:43:11 AM
  • 12
    I take a one a day for women my age, Omega oils, C at the early onset of a cold and calcium/D3. I'll be switching my calcium intake to a lesser dosage soon as I'm getting it in my diet better now. But I can never seem to eat enough potassium no matter how hard I try in my 1550 calorie budget. I'm planning to talk to my doc about that. There have been too many warnings against taking potassium supplements without a doctor's guidance. - 3/14/2012   9:31:36 AM
    One a day for me. I had been taking more, but since I am eating better, only one. - 3/14/2012   5:28:33 AM
  • 10
    I have a variety of supplements (protein, fiber, vitamins, etc.). I track all the various nutrients on sparkpeople and mix and match my supplements according to what I am lacking on any particular day. - 3/13/2012   11:39:57 PM
  • 9
    I guess you mean "what vitamins do I take to OPTIMIZE my health?" I take a daily multivitamin, fish oil supplements, vitamin C and vitamin E. Also take a baby aspirin a day. - 3/13/2012   8:59:11 PM
    I take calcium with D3 because my doctor gives them me to help off-set the risks associated with taking corticosteroids.

    I get B12 injections because my Crohn's disease has stopped it absorbing properly in the past.

    I don't take any other supplements: I eat a balanced and varied diet instead. I would only do supplements/vitamins if my bloods showed a deficiency. Even then I'd look to increase food sources too (the ones I take now, I increased the amount from food sources too).

    Like the person who mentioned potassium - I'd consider eating more bananas first! - 3/13/2012   6:51:26 PM
  • MSGO72
    When I read studies like these I can’t help but wonder if other lifestyle choices come into play. Do the subjects involved make poor food and fitness choices believing supplements will cover a multitude of sins? Just a thought… - 3/13/2012   10:15:22 AM
  • 6
    i like whole food vitamins. from what i understand they are extracted from actual food that is good for you instead of synthetic. - 3/13/2012   10:10:38 AM
  • 5
    I take two Flintstone Chewables with Iron, since they absorb best rather than pass through as many HARD vitamin pills do for older people. I take NO SALT for potassium each day. - 3/13/2012   9:21:47 AM
  • PRINCE110
    You know I dislike taking pills. Which at this time is a problem ,because I have several that I have to take daily. So, when I do see my doctor the last thing I asked if to take more.. She sugguested several other vitamin but no a multi-vitamin what appear to be low according to my blood test. So, I do think you can get vitamin in your diet as well. I rather eat and drink my dosage of vitamins. - 3/13/2012   9:05:35 AM
    Let's see, my doctor recently recommended that I take Vitamin D to prevent colds, aspirin to prevent heat attack, and potassium (Hydrochlorothiazide) for my blood pressure. When using the nutrition tracker, I frequently get flagged for not having enough iron. Is an iron supplement appropriate then? - 3/13/2012   8:56:36 AM
    I am a nurse and was told by a pt that a friend of hers had a low potassium level and needed a supplement. The friend encouraged my pt that she too, should take an OTC potassium supplement. I almost had a heart attack myself. I told her to NEVER listen to what others tell you without clarifying it with your PCP. Messing with a potassium level would surely have thrown her into an abnormal heart rhythym!!!! You did the right thing. - 3/13/2012   8:34:58 AM
  • 1
    I hate swallowing pills, so I do my best to get my nutrients naturally (and I can keep an eye on them by adding them to my nutrition tracker), but my husband takes a multi-vitamin and a Vitamin C supplement daily.

    I think it's a good idea to get advice from a doctor before starting any vitamin regiment. Someone told me runners should take iron, so I went to my doctor to be tested. It turned out I was naturally on the high end of the normal range, so it's a good thing I didn't just start taking it without being tested! (She also never heard of runners needing extra iron. It's always good to do extra research when you hear something like that!) - 3/13/2012   6:33:34 AM

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