When should you start taking vitamins?

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A nearly mummified bottle of Centrum Women Multigummies sits on my desk. The only time I remember taking the two recommended gummies was when my mom’s shrill voice rang through my phone speaker. She is of the opinion that everyone should take at least a multivitamin.

It is rare that I think about my vitamin levels, and I suspect a lot of people don’t either. So when does our body need us to take our vitamins? Although research suggests that they are not strictly necessary for the average person, supplements are useful for those who need them.

What are vitamins? Why are they important?

Our body needs vitamins to grow and function properly. Most of the vitamins that our body depends on come from our diet. This means the average American won’t need to take vitamin supplements if they eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains.

However, this is not always the case. There are times when vitamin or mineral supplements are needed. Dietary restrictions or natural deficiencies can prevent you from getting enough of certain vitamins. Iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium are some of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Unless you take a home test or get a blood test from your doctor, you don’t know if you’re lacking in vitamins, which makes it harder to know when to start taking a supplement.

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Common symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiency

Being “vitamin deficient” is a broad term. In many cases, you may be missing just one vitamin. Below are the 13 essential vitamins and common deficiency symptoms for each.

Vitamin A: Gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease or cirrhosis of the liver can impact the body’s ability to absorb vitamin A as it should. The most common symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include frequent infections, skin irritation, night blindness, or blurred vision.

Vitamin C: Generally, vitamin C deficiency is rare in developed countries. However, it affects 7.1% of American adults. Vitamin C is crucial for the production of collagen in our body; its lack is linked to damaged skin and slow wound healing. Easy bruising is one of the most common warning signs of this deficiency.

Vitamin D: Our bodies synthesize sunlight into vitamin D. It is essential for our immune health and has been linked to a lower risk of COVID-19 infection. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to frequent illnesses, slowed bone metabolism and muscle pain.

Vitamin E : Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. Although rare in healthy people, vitamin E deficiency contributes to nerve and muscle damage that can lead to blurred vision or loss of feeling in the arms or legs.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and cardiovascular health. It also plays a role in bone development. If you’re deficient, you’re at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, bleeding problems, and decreased bone strength. Vitamin K deficiency is generally rare in adults. Babies are, however, at risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding, or VKDB.

B vitamins: There are eight B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folate and folic acid, and vitamin B12. . Older people and pregnant women tend to be at higher risk for vitamin B deficiencies. Symptoms can include things like anemia, fatigue, or weakness.

Vitamin needs by age group

The vitamins our body needs to grow and function change throughout our lives. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing or producing certain vitamins. Below you will find the nutritional requirements by age group.

Babies and children

Formula is fortified with vitamins, so you don’t have to worry about extra supplements if they consume more than 500 milliliters of formula per day. In the case of vitamin D, breastfed babies need an additional source. Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that breastfed babies also get a supplement of 400 international units, or IUs, of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D is not only essential for bone development, but it also prevents rickets.

Childhood is a time of significant physical growth and extreme cognitive development. The US government recommends supplements including vitamin A, C, and D daily for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

Mom giving a vitamin to her child

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Teenagers and teenagers

With increased growth and metabolism, the nutritional needs of teens and teens increase. Generally, the daily recommendation for children ages 9 to 18 is at least 1,300 mg of calcium, 1.8 to 2.4 micrograms of B vitamins, and 11 IU of vitamin E. The average teenager can get their daily needs from a healthy diet.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board provides benchmarks for healthy children and adults. Remember that these numbers are based on averages. You should talk to your doctor if you suspect your teen is suffering from a vitamin deficiency.


The National Institutes of Health suggest that the average adult needs about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day to maintain bone density in adulthood. A supplement may be needed during the fall and winter months when you cannot get an adequate amount of vitamin D from the sun. It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from your diet.

Women and those who are breastfeeding are most likely to have nutritional deficiencies compared to other groups. Pregnancy changes the nutritional needs of women – more macronutrients and micronutrients are needed. The CDC advises pregnant women to take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to help prevent possible birth defects.

Nursing mothers need to produce enough nutrients to provide their children with what they need. As a result, the recommended vitamin A intake nearly doubles when breastfeeding to around 1,300 milligrams per day.


Some parts of the elderly population are susceptible to vitamin deficiencies due to chewing problems or medical conditions. Also, as we age, our bodies naturally absorb less vitamin B12 from the foods we eat. Up to 43% of older people have a vitamin B12 deficiency. People over 50 should take a vitamin B12 supplement or incorporate fortified foods into their diet. Concentrated B12 injections are also available.

Calcium is another nutrient that our gut absorbs less of as we age, which can lead to brittle bones or frequent fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends adults over 70 ingest 1,200 mg of calcium daily.

In older people, vitamin deficiencies can pile on top of each other. A lack of calcium in the body is linked to vitamin D deficiency in older people, as our bodies are less efficient at producing it. Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.

Elderly couple taking vitamins

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Too long, didn’t you read?

Unless you’re lacking in certain vitamins, you probably don’t need to take them regularly, provided you maintain a balanced diet. Vitamins have benefits, but they are not a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle. Vitamins are just one piece of the puzzle used in combination with a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

About Keith Johnson

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