JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discusses the need for dietary supplements.
The main purpose of dietary supplements is to treat deficiencies of vitamins and minerals or to prevent such deficiencies. For people who are concerned that they may not have an adequate diet, it’s very reasonable to take a multivitamin or to take relatively low doses of different nutrients. Megadose supplementation, very high dose supplementation of any vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient, is not recommended due to the health risks.
Groups that will benefit from dietary supplementation include women of reproductive age and pregnant women. Folic acid is extremely important in preventing neural tube defects and other birth defects so these groups should be encouraged to take a supplement of a folic acid.
Also, calcium and vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for bone health, especially in older individuals who are at higher risk of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fracture or people who have lactose intolerance and tend to get very low intake of calcium or vitamin D-fortified foods. There are also some individuals, especially older people, who may have deficiencies of vitamin B-12 and could benefit from supplementation.
It’s important to select a high quality supplement. There are a couple of things that will indicate whether a supplement has a high level of quality control. One is looking for the GMP label which stands for Good Manufacturing Practices. The other is USP, which stands for United States Pharmacopeial Convention. These labels will indicate that the supplement has been certified in some way in terms of quality control, that it has gone through a certain audit in terms of the good manufacturing practices, and that it’s been tested for contents and for quality control.
It’s recommended you speak with your physician before taking any dietary supplement.
Learn more about the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital: