More Is Not Always Better!

Supplements, do I need them? The answer is simple, probably not. If you have been following social media, you have certainly seen different companies pushing different vitamins and nutrients, especially recently with the COVID-19 pandemic. The supplements come in many forms; pills, shakes, and patches. It doesn’t matter the supplement delivery method, there are a ton out there, trying to convince you to spend your money on them.

Let’s break it down. Our bodies do need vitamins and nutrients, that’s no secret. If you are following a well-balanced diet (i.e. MyPlate or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines), chances are you do not need a supplement. If your doctor has shared with you that you are deficient in a certain nutrient or you are excluding an entire food group from your diet, you may need a supplement.

But more is better, right? Not so fast. Our bodies use nutrients for many things, they break down the food we eat, make bones stronger, help muscles contract, and maintain immunity. That’s right they maintain immunity not boost or prevent us from getting viruses such as COVID-19 or the flu. But there’s no reason to get more than you need, and some nutrients can be dangerous in large amounts. Not to mention dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, leading to concerns of safety and efficacy. An NSF stamp ensures what’s on the label, is what’s in the bottle.

All vitamins have a recommended amount that you should get each day, and many even have a tolerable upper intake level. The tolerable upper intake level, indicates when you exceed this amount the vitamin could cause harm to you. For example, Vitamin B6, when exceeding the tolerable upper intake level could cause nerve damage. Sticking to a well-balanced diet, you will get enough of the vitamins and nutrients you need, and it’s unlikely that you will exceed the upper intake level of any vitamin.

Some vitamins and minerals are difficult to get from out diet like Vitamin D and Iodine. For this reason, food has been fortified with these vitamins and minerals, to help prevent any health concerns from a deficiency. Milk was chosen to be fortified with Vitamin D, because Calcium and Vitamin D need each other in order to absorb properly. Vitamin D, is also a fat-soluble Vitamin, meaning it needs fat to absorb. Milk is a great source of Calcium and fat, making it the perfect choice for Vitamin D fortification.

The bottom line is, if you are maintaining a balanced diet, exercising and practicing a healthy lifestyle, supplements are probably not needed. And please don’t mega-dose on vitamins, hoping it will prevent viruses like the flu or COVID-19. Vitamins support our immune system they do not boost it or prevent illness.

If you are looking for information about vitamin and mineral recommendation or information about supplements in general, visit the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements for more information,

Or tune into the Purdue Extension Bite by Bite Nutrition For Life podcast, where we cut through the hype, explore the science behind food and nutrition, and provide practical tips for incorporating healthful strategies into everyday life.

Monica Nagele is the County Extension Director and educator of health and human science for the Montgomery County Purdue Extension.