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According to a study done by the Malaysian Adults Nutrition Survey (MANS) in 2014, 1 in 3 adults ranging from 18-59 years old was found to be taking dietary supplements or vitamins at some point. Hence, it is not difficult to see that health supplements play a significant role in our daily lives, and we are more health conscious than ever before.
We are constantly bombarded with all the information available to us online, but it is up to us to determine which is real or which is fake. We might decide based on the popular opinion of others, but in reality only we ourselves will know which vitamins are most suitable for us.
So, first things first, Do you really need vitamins?
Well, yes and no. Most healthy people don’t actually need extra supplementation of vitamins as they are getting what they need from diet alone. But a lot of us do not seem to get the recommended amount of nutrients from diet alone, possibly because of lifestyle and other factors like nutrient depreciation of food, and therefore we will need some help in getting the right amount of vitamins.
We might need to take a few factors into consideration, like age, gender, diet when deciding which vitamins we should take. Let’s take a more detailed look below.
Someone who is younger usually does not need that much of a supplementation when compared to an elder. Getting older means that the ability for the body to absorb or keep certain vitamins and minerals becomes weaker, and it happens to the best of us.
Vitamin D, known also as the sunshine vitamin, can also be one of the vitamins that an elderly person needs. There are 2 possible reason why the elderly are more prone to vitamin D deficiency:
It is predicted that we start to lose calcium from our bones when we reach the age of 25, where women lose calcium at a higher rate compared to men. From that point onwards it will only go downhill, therefore it might be more beneficial for us if we start to build up our calcium reservoir at a younger age. It is also advisable for women older than 50 or men older than 70 to take more calcium as much as 1200mg per day.
Ubiquinol can be one of the supplements an elderly needs. Ubiquinol is needed by the body to maintain a good energy level as they are involved in the body’s energy production. It also helps in maintaining a healthy heart. As we age, the body’s ability to produce ubiquinol weakens and some may feel a decrease in their daily energy levels.
It is certainly best if we can obtain those nutrients and supplements from our daily diet, but there are some possible reasons that we are unable to achieve them, such as:
So, it is apparent to us that for this group of people, getting vitamins in the form of supplementation is the way to go. A more obvious example will be, vegetarians are at a higher risk of being deficient in certain vitamins, such as iron and vitamin B12.
There are some medical conditions that might cause us to take or absorb less of certain nutrients which eventually can lead to deficiency if we do not pay attention to it. Take a look at some of the examples below.
It is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, as much as 70% is affected in this community. It is a type of genetic mutation where the body lacks the enzyme lactase to break down lactose, causing symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, nausea or abdominal pain. Now, this group of people have to be extra careful in their calcium intake as they can easily be deficient in it since the major source of calcium comes from dairy sources.
Also known as gluten intolerance, this is a more uncommon allergic reaction where it results in an immune reaction when the affected individual consumes gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat, barley and rye. It causes an abnormal immune reaction where our immune system attacks our own gut tissue, causing us to have a lower ability to take in nutrients. It may cause some undesirable symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, flatulence and others. Micronutrient deficiencies in such patients are not uncommon, and they may be lacking in iron, folic acid, vitamin B6, B12, copper and zinc.
There are many kinds of allergies, but among the most common ones will be eggs, seafoods and nuts. When ingested, they may cause allergic reactions of different severity, depending on the person. Mild symptoms are itchiness, redness, swelling; while severe symptoms may include breathing difficulties, chest tightness and eventually shock. Therefore, it is important to choose vitamins or supplements which do not contain such allergens.
When it comes to pregnant women, there are a few things to take note of. They have to take extra steps to make sure all is well for both the mother and the baby’s health. There are certain nutrients that are crucial throughout the stages of pregnancy.
One of the vitamins B, is needed to prevent a condition called neural tube defect (NTD) in foetus. Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain or spinal cord which usually happens in the first trimester of pregnancy. It causes nerve damage that results in some damage like paralysis to the legs, or brain and skull not developing normally. It is usually taken 1 month before conception and then continued in the first trimester.
When iron is low in your blood, it may cause anemia because it is one of the main components in red blood cells. As such, it is particularly important for women who lost their body iron store from periods to take in enough iron or iron-rich foods to replenish their stores.
It is recommended for pregnant women to start supplementing iron during the second and third trimester to prepare them for the blood loss during laboring. WHO had recommended that pregnant women take 30 to 60 mg of elemental iron to prevent conditions such as anemia, low birth weight or preterm birth.
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an essential fatty acid that is important for a healthy nervous system, eye and brain development of the foetus. At least 200 mg of DHA daily is usually recommended for pregnant women, and you may find that most prenatal supplements do actually contain 200 mg of DHA as well.
There is not a fine line between when we should take what vitamins or supplements, but it really depends on our personal needs, lifestyle and health goals. Knowing our needs will certainly improve the results we are getting from the supplements. Getting them from a daily diet would be best, but there is no shame in taking in the form of dietary supplements as well. Always try to monitor our own body condition so that we know what’s best for ourselves!
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