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Vitamin Supplements May be Needed

The advice to eat a well balanced diet is still true to-day, but more and more nutrition and health researchers are recommending that supplements to the diet may be a good idea. Many food components commonly found in our food are being shown to be effective against disease and infection. However, the levels at which these nutrients are effective are higher than can be obtained in a "normal" diet. So the only alternative maybe to take a supplement.


In a recent editorial of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Godfrey Oakley pointed out that most people would benefit from the use of a multivitamin because of new evidence about the protective effect of increased folic acid in the diet. It seems that a distinction is being made between food derived nutrients and those supplied by supplements. As Dr. Oakley points out, in the case of a nutrient such as folic acid, food composition tables can be misleading because not all of the folate is available. In the case of folic acid, new regulations in the United States require that enriched grains be fortified with folic acid. But, in spite of this, the editorial points out that it may be necessary to consume a multivitamin or a serving of fully fortified breakfast cereal in order to obtain the 400 ug of folate that is recommended. Just eating 400 ug of food derived folate may not be adequate.

There is no doubt that supplements cannot replace a nutritionally sound diet. That is why they are called supplements. A well planned diet can meet most nutrient requirements, but when extra is required as a prophylactic supplements may be the only alternative.


New England Journal of Medicine

1998; 338:1060-1061, Apr 9, 1998

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