What vitamins aren't a waste of money?
October 3, 2012 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Are there any vitamins/supplements that are actually worth taking?

I've always been of the mindset, "If you are generally healthy, vitamins are dumb, eat a better diet." I need to take a medication twice daily and since I'm already guzzling pills I'm wondering if there are any that might actually benefit me? I've started with a calcium +D and a Fish Oil since I figure those are two I actually don't get enough of in my diet.

Are there any other ones that are probably a worthwhile addition?

(I'm not looking for suggestions like, "Echinacea for your immune system" because I specifically am not interested in herbal supplements with dubious/no health benefits . )

FWIW I am a healthy 26 year old non-pregnant female.
posted by pintapicasso to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
If you think you might ever want to get pregnant some day, making sure you have enough Folic Acid in your diet is a good idea.
posted by ambrosia at 3:29 PM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Zinc keeps my damaged ear from ringing. I wish it didn't 'cause it can make me nauseous but the ringing is far worse so I take it. Others have probably noted the importance of Folic Acid when expecting.
posted by Mertonian at 3:32 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: I've read that vitamin D is a good general supplement to take. You said you take a calcium +D supplement, but the calcium +D supplements tend to have a relatively low dose of vitamin D. I take about 2000-4000IU daily.

here's a link to its examine page.
posted by Qberting at 3:33 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vitamin C, if you don't eat much in the way of stuff that has Vitamin C in it, is worth having enough of in your system. Same with potassium. Nthing folate.

Honestly, the easiest way to deal with this is to just take one broad daily multivitamin. They don't hurt.
posted by SMPA at 3:34 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lots of answers in nifty infographic form
posted by neroli at 3:38 PM on October 3, 2012 [27 favorites]

Since you're taking a prescription med, it's worth looking into whether it might interfere with normal absorption of certain vitamins/minerals. In general, iron if your period makes a difference for you with that; D and the B-complexes for me are a big deal but may not be for you; I put ground flaxseed in everything and eat walnuts for the omegas since I don't eat fish.
posted by headnsouth at 3:39 PM on October 3, 2012

Absolutely keep taking the vitamin D. It is notoriously difficult to get through food- I eat tons of fish that is supposedly full of D, but I still am deficient.

I don't know if you would consider this in the same light as echinacea, but I and many of my lady friends have had great experiences taking prenatal vitamins and/or biotin supplements to improve the health of skin, hair and nails.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a really personal question -- people can be out of balance in different ways, for different reasons. Personally, I take zinc because my diet has been low in meat and I get slightly anemic. If you don't get enough sunlight, you need vitamin D. In the past I took a liquid B-12 supplement because, even though I had a balanced diet, I was tired and such (recommended by a health professional). If you get imbalanced, your body can display the same signs as a deficiency for the one you are low in balance on (for example calcium and magnesium work together, but taking too much magnesium can cause symptoms of a calcium deficiency -- this is why they're often sold in combination). The best thing really is to ask you doctor what he/she recommends based on his analysis of you.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hair/skin/nail vitamins have done wonders for me. When I remember to take them regularly it's almost like I can actually SEE my hair growing, it grows so fast.
posted by Brittanie at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: The below links are not about which vitamins might work - so I'm not sure they will answer your question - but I've pasted them as an effort to counteract a lot of misinformation you will no doubt receive.

Aside from things like folic acid and iodine - which lots of our food is fortified with and thus pills are unnecessary - the only vitamins I've seen any evidence for are: Vitamin D, iron if you're anemic (and a lot of people are), and a 50-50 case for Omega 3 oils. Note: all of those can be taken in food-form.

The case against anti-oxidant vitamin supplements (vitamins C and E, for example).

"Alas, vitamin supplement - "Two studies released this week provide additional evidence that vitamin supplements are potentially harmful and, at the very least, do no good."

3 reasons to stop taking vitamin pills
posted by smoke at 3:45 PM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh -- and my mom's chiropractor (since chiros can sometimes get a bad rap as "vitamin pushers") told her to stop taking the 20 supplements she was on and basically figured out the 1 or 2 she was actually imbalanced in and gave her those. Her energy level (huge problem for years) has been dramatically increasing.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:49 PM on October 3, 2012

Please, don't just guess at what you might be deficient in. Find a doctor who will do a nutritional screening. I recently did it, and it was so worth it. If I had tried to guess what supplements I should be taking, I would have been way off. For instance, I'm low in potassium, even though I constantly eat bananas, avocados, and other high-potassium foods. On the other hand, I found out that even though I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, I'm high in protein, zinc, iron, etc. Since I wouldn't have known these things even though I'm always observing myself, a bunch of internet strangers who know nothing about me sure wouldn't have known.
posted by John Cohen at 4:18 PM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I took supplements for a long time. I took them for specific things I was severely deficient in, so deficient that merely eating better was not going to do it. When those issues were resolved, I began relying on "eating right" (right for my wacky metabolism, which doesn't look "right" at all to a lot of other people). When I was taking vitamins, I found that chemical form and brand can really matter. Some things are more bioavailable than others.

I will second the idea that you should find out if you actually need something and not just take stuff willy nilly.
posted by Michele in California at 4:46 PM on October 3, 2012

Vitamin C, since we are one of the few mammals that don't make our own, yet it is vital for cellular processes.

You should probably do some research about supplements and come to your own conclusions. I think 50 years ago if you had a decent diet, hooray. Since then, we have GMO crops (please tell me you know what that is?! I've met folks your age that do not...) and many more chemical and processed foods in our diets, such that eating "decently" doesn't cut it unless you are getting all of your fruit, veg, and meats organic and from small family owned farms that eschew gmo seeds and gmo feed for livestock.

Taking a good multi-vitamin and some extra D, C, calcium, omega's and whathaveyou, probably won't hurt.
posted by jbenben at 5:15 PM on October 3, 2012

FWIW, a nurse told me my joint pain might improve if I used Glucosamine/Chondroiton for at least a month or two, I checked with my doctor who said no harm in trying, and it did. YMMV.
posted by forthright at 6:09 PM on October 3, 2012

If you get cold sores, l-lysine is a miracle. I would get cold sores once a month, if not more often. I started taking l-lysine last February and haven't had one since.

From personal experience, B-12 is good for mental functioning, and I take C and CoQ10 for collagen production.
posted by peacrow at 7:28 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's the thing - they're supplements.

If you're healthy and eating well then by definition you are not lacking in anything that you need supplementing.

The caveat is that you are actually eating a well balanced diet. I doubt that there is an "optimum diet," even for individuals. Your body isn't a static system and what it needs to function optimally changes from day to day. As long as you feel ok, don't have a specific genetic metabolic issue, do actually have a diet with generally the right ratio of food groups and no particular deficiency in micronutrients then...

Don't worry about it.

I think a better question would be whether anything in your lifestyle/diet will lead to micronutrient deficiencies. Lots of dark green vegetables? No worries about folic acid. Recently vitamin D's alleged anti-cancer properties have been tremendously weakened. It's not bad to have, it'll still help protect against osteoporosis but as the only vitamin that's actually a hormone, its benefits have evidently been oversold. Or if you rely only on poorly farmed fish for omega3 fatty acids - corn fed fish have far lower levels of this nutrient.
posted by porpoise at 8:13 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: Vitamin D? Have your levels checked and only take if you are deficient.

Personally I would never take a multi-vitamin because they always have iron in them and I think iron is dangerous if you are not deficient.

When you are a little older, and the studies are still saying it works, you may, with your doctor's approval, take one aspirin a day to keep your blood thin to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

I take fish oil only because I have a stressful life. But what I should really do is eliminate stress and then I wouldn't have to take fish oil.

One recent study has linked calcium supplements with increase of heart attacks. That's enough for me to decide not to take it.
posted by cda at 9:37 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: Supposedly billions of dollars are wasted every year on vitamin and mineral supplements. If you're truly concerned then i second getting a blood test to outline your exact requirements. Apart from that the only thing i can think of is folic acid 6mth-12mths out from when you plan to fall pregnant. Apparently it has maximum affect for baby development when you take it 12mths out from date of conception with the benefits wearing off mostly if you had started it around 9-12 weeks of pregnancy (or so Im told).

I live in Australia and our soil is hugely deficient in magnesium, iodine and a bunch of other stuff, so many health practitioners here suggest supplements in those (some people i know are religious about their magnesium supplements, not everyone though). Just a thought that it could be worth looking into where your food is grown too.
posted by Under the Sea at 10:00 PM on October 3, 2012

Personally I would never take a multi-vitamin because they always have iron in them and I think iron is dangerous if you are not deficient.

Citation? Multivitamins contain such small amounts of iron that this is unlikely, especially if you take a multivitamin targeted for your gender and age bracket. Iron is recommended for pre-menopausal women, of which group I believe the OP is a part, from previous posts.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:25 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OP, my doctor recommended fish oil to me, saying there's some evidence it can help with depression. My partner's RD also recommended it to him because it can reduce triglycerides.

My doctor also suggested I take vitamin C because I used to get frequent UTIs and he said some research indicates it could help with that (I had previously tried cranberry pills, with no success). I haven't had a UTI since I started taking it, but I'm also pretty careful about peeing after sex, which can help.

I take a multivitamin as a kind of insurance against a diet that's not always balanced and calcium + vitamin D.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:37 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have muscle cramps or restless legs, magnesium is very helpful. Acetyl l-carnitine and Alpha lipoic acid together have made a signifigant difference for me with brain fog. Ginger does help with nausea.
posted by monopas at 11:50 PM on October 3, 2012

Nthing everyone's vitamin D. I was severely deficient and didn't know it (tired to the point of feeling dizzy and nauseated, heart palpitations) until March of this year.

I used to take an incredible cocktail, but these days I take MSM (being tired all the time actually makes you ache -- and the MSM stops that), Vitamin C (helps with absorption), Flaxseed oil (as an actual oil), Vitamin D with Calcium, and occasionally evening primrose oil.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:42 AM on October 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all! I am going to add a vit D and leave it at that.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:29 AM on October 4, 2012

You can be tested for Vitamin D or B deficiency, maybe others. I asked to be tested for D, as deficient, and taking supplemental vit. D has been quite good. Maybe I feel better and have less fatigue for some other reason (i.e., correlation is not causation), but it's not expensive, and not hazardous. I'm low in B, and keep forgetting to buy supplements. Hmmm, perhaps there's a reason I'm forgetful...

also, you may be deficient in your daily intake of beedogs. Laughter is essential to health.
posted by theora55 at 9:40 AM on October 4, 2012

Vitamin D testing is not covered by many insurance carriers and if you have to pay it could run anwhere from $25 to upwards of $250...check to see if your policy covers it. If you don't want to get tested but want to supplement with vitamin D, there is sort of a general recommendation of 2000 mg per day, particularly if you live in Northern Latitudes, don't get much sun exposure, and in the winter months. Sorry I don't have a citation for that.
posted by PaulBGoode at 6:57 PM on February 7, 2013

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