An Introduction To Vitamin Supplements

 It can be a little daunting walking into a health food store, drugstore or supermarket isle with all those supplement bottles on the shelves. There are hundreds of vitamin, mineral, and supplements of all sorts. It is important to understand how and why supplements work so they can be taken for your health needs. Quite a bit of controversy exists about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Some think that we get all the necessary nutrients from a well-balanced diet; others feel the SAD in general is nutritionally incomplete. Whether a person chooses to take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement or not, it is important to eat a well-balanced, varied diet, drink plenty of fluids, limit the amount of food we consume for our body size, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly. These can be hard to fit in to a busy life and taking a vitamin and mineral supplement is not a cure-all, nor should they be used as a stimulant for energy or as a substitute for a well-balanced diet.


A vitamin is an organic chemical compound found in plant and animal food sources that your body must have (in small amounts) for normal growth, metabolism, and health. The controversy about vitamin and mineral supplements comes in when dosages are discussed. Recommended vitamin dosages have been defined in the past as the dosages needed to prevent specific deficiency diseases such as scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, and rickets. Recent research has some key elements in deciding your dosage. Vitamins are needed to make thousands of enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals. Your body can’t make them, you need to get them from your food or supplements. There are 13 vitamins and you need every single one of them.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body, mostly in your fatty tissues and your liver. Vitamins A, E, D, and K are fat-soluble. Fat-soluble means that they dissolve in fat but not water. Since your body stores fat-soluble vitamins, you don’t have to get a supply of them every day and because your body stores them, they could build up in your body and cause problems.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins can’t be stored in your body for very long. They range from being stored in the body for a few hours to several days. Since water-soluble vitamins are dissolved in water, any extra is carried out of your body. Vitamin C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble. You need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day because you can’t store them.


If you don’t get a particular vitamin for a long time, you develop a deficiency. If the deficiency goes on long enough, you get a deficiency disease. Long before a deficiency disease shows up you could be marginally deficient. A marginal deficiency is when your body’s supply of a vitamin (or mineral) is gradually drained and your body’s normal workings are gradually impaired. Deficiencies and marginal deficiencies are hard to pin down. It may be that you are just feeling below par, or more tired than usual. It’s easy to blame those on all sorts of things so most people don’t think about a vitamin (or mineral) deficiency right away. If you feel your health isn’t what it should be, if you get frequent minor illnesses ask yourself if you’re getting enough of the vitamins (and minerals) you need.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are are oxygen atoms that are missing one electron from the pair the atom should have. When an atom is missing an electron from a pair, it becomes unstable and very reactive. A free radical desperately wants to find another electron to fill in the gap, so it grabs an electron from the next atom it gets near, this is called oxidation. When a free radical seizes an electron from another atom, the second atom than becomes a free radical. One free radical starts a cascade of new free radicals in your body. The free radicals wander around, grabbing electrons from your cells and doing a lot of damage to them at the same time.

Oxidation is not the only thing to cause free radicals. The ultraviolet light in sunshine can do it. Toxins of all sorts – tobacco smoke, natural chemicals in our food, poisonous wastes of our own metabolism, and man-made toxins pollution, pesticides, chemicals added to our processed food – all trigger free radicals as well.


Antioxidants are your body’s natural defense against free radicals. When an antioxidant finds a free radical, they grab hold of it and neutralize it without being damaged themselves. The antioxidant enzymes stop the invasion and remove the free radical from circulation.

Things To Know Before You Start Taking Supplements

Your Needs – Every person’s needs are different. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is a minimum amount an average person needs. No one should tell you how much you need because it should be based on individual factors. The amount you decide you take should be based on your personal health, family medical history, age, sex, and even more factors. The upcoming posts (13) on Wednesdays will be information about each individual vitamin. Then you will be able to decide for yourself how much you need for your health. (Following vitamins will be minerals.)

How Much – Many doctors, nutritionists, and researchers today believe the RDA’s are far too low and you can be sure that you can safely take the low RDA’s. The upcoming posts will help you decide the amount that is healthy for you.

Mega Doses – Do not ever take mega doses without the help of a qualified practitioner’s guidance.

Doctor’s Must Know – Always tell your doctor about any supplement you are taking. Write everything down so you do not forget to mention one or any. Prescription drugs interfere with some natural supplements just as they do with some other drugs. There could very serious complications and adverse permanent damage if all supplements are not accounted for.

Labels– An ingredient listed on the label may be listed plainly, or part of it may be in parentheses. The two listings mean very different things. For example: zinc picolinate can read zinc picolinate – 50 mg or zinc (picolinate) – 50 mg. In the zinc picolinate the 50 mg is the combined weight of the zinc and the picolinate. In the zinc (picolinate) the 50 mg refers to the weight of the elemental zinc and does not include the weight of the picolinate. So if you would like to have 50 mg of zinc – you’d choose zinc (picolinate) – 50 mg.

Expiration Date– Vitamin and mineral supplements can lose their potency quickly. Many of them are sensitive to light, heat, oxygen, and moisture. Regulations only require that 90% of the potency listed on the label has to be present at the time of shipping. If you’re supplement has been sitting on a shelf, you’ll be getting even less than that.

When and How – Although following the directions on the label is important, it’s better to take a vitamin and mineral supplement split up throughout the day rather than all at once. The water-soluble vitamins have a better chance to get absorbed and used if they are taken at intervals.

Units of Measurement

kg = kilogram

g = gram

mg = milligram

mcg = microgram

ng = nanogram

RE – retinol equivalent

IU = international unit

Changes In Health

You won’t see instant changes in your health as soon as you do start taking supplements. The improvements come slowly, over a period of weeks or even months. You will most likely notice you just feel better and with more energy before any significant health changes are felt.

2 Responses to “An Introduction To Vitamin Supplements”
  1. neil maycock says:

    I completely agree with the above article. A really well researched article. I used Ephedra for a while, and I can recommend dont give up, and dont expect quick results.

  2. Immune Support Believer says:

    All I have to say is thank god summer is here!! I had a really rough winter with the flu and spring left me with a nice cold as well. I have been researching immune support supplements like Garlic and Echinacea and that led me to this site. Really happy I stumbled into it, everyone here seems very helpful! Wish it was that way when I walk into my local retailer. It feels like whenever I go in, I walk out with a ton more stuff than I need and a bill through the roof. I really want to stay healthy and it is starting to get a little expensive. With everything else getting expensive too, I just started looking online for supplements and was BLOWN AWAY with some of the great deals I found online
    This one site (sounds pure..ha…ha…I digress) had some great deals on my daily immune support supplements
    stuff like buy one get two and free shipping (love how much I am saving on gas), etc. I was so happy to find them, by the same token, the prices and deals I got there made me really call into question why they are so much more at my local supermarket. Does anyone know why the prices are so much better online??

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