Understanding Vitamins: What You Need to Know

by Rainier Dennis D. Bautista MD

When it comes to vitamins, we often hear about them being good for our health. But how much is enough, and when is it too much? Let’s break it down in simpler terms.

How Much Vitamin Do We Need?
Imagine vitamins as the fuel for your car. Just as different cars need different amounts of fuel, each person might need varying amounts of vitamins. Experts have come up with some guidelines.

RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance):
Think of this as the ‘ideal’ amount of vitamin most people should aim for daily.

AI (Adequate Intake):
Sometimes, we aren’t sure about the ‘ideal’ amount, so we have a best-guess amount called AI.

Should You Get Tested for Vitamin Levels?
While we can test the level of many vitamins in our blood, it’s not always needed. It’s like checking the oil in your car; you only really need to do it if you think there’s a problem.

Taking Extra Vitamins to Avoid Diseases: Does It Work?
Folate (a type of B-vitamin):
For expecting moms, taking extra folate can help ensure their baby develops healthily.

Vitamin D:
This can be like a safety net for older adults, helping them avoid brittle bones and falls.

Imagine these as the body’s rust protectors. Eating veggies and fruits is great for getting these, but taking them as a pill? Not proven to be as effective.

Vitamin A:
Important for kids in areas with fewer food and healthcare resources. But too much, especially during early pregnancy, can be harmful.

Vitamin C:
While it’s famous for fighting colds, there isn’t solid proof that taking extra will fend off major illnesses. And in big doses? It might harm your kidneys by increasing your risk for kidney stones.

Vitamin E:
Some folks take this hoping to dodge diseases, but the evidence is slim. In fact, too much might be bad for you.

Vitamin B2, B6, and B12:
These are like the engine oils of the body, but the average person on a normal diet doesn’t need extras. Though, B12 checks might be useful for some, like strict vegetarians or the elderly.

What About Those All-in-One Vitamin Pills?
For most of us eating a variety of foods, taking a multivitamin pill isn’t needed. But, for certain folks – like those on strict diets or after specific surgeries – it can be helpful. If you want to take one just in case, it’s usually okay, but always best to ask a doctor.

Can You Have Too Much of a Good Thing?
Absolutely! Just as overfilling your car with fuel can cause issues, taking too many vitamins can be harmful. Water-friendly vitamins (like vitamin C) are usually okay in large amounts, but fat-friendly vitamins (like vitamin A) can be harmful if overdone.In Short: Vitamins are essential, but more isn’t always better. It’s like a balance – not too little, not too much. Always consider what your body needs and when in doubt, reach out to a health expert for guidance.

Rainier Dennis D. Bautista MD
is a board-certified Family Medicine Physician with the Primary Care Clinic of Hawaii, serving the communities of Oahu and Kauai.

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