Vitamins are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement. However, the FDA does not require that manufacturers of the vitamins prove safety and effectiveness before marketing a dietary supplement the way they do for a prescription medication. In addition, the FDA does not evaluate dietary supplements for the treatment of medical conditions. Due to the lack of oversight of vitamins and dietary supplements, there are many things to be careful with. Just because a product is available as over the counter, meaning no prescription is needed, it is not necessarily safe for everyone to use.
Multivitamins and specific vitamin containing products do provide benefit for certain individuals, but many healthy, non-pregnant adults get all of the nutrients they need from a well-balanced diet. Vitamin supplements are not intended for use by everyone. Some people that specifically benefit from multivitamins are vegetarians or vegans, those with poor nutritional status, and people with nonhealing wounds. Many children and adults living in Iowa do not get enough vitamin D and may require this vitamin supplement. Folic acid supplementation is beneficial for pregnancy and preconception.
Many vitamins and dietary supplements interact with prescription medications. Sometimes, this interaction can lead to increased levels of prescription medications in your body and harmful side effects. On the flip side, vitamins can also reduce levels of other prescription medications in your body and cause that medication to not work as it should.
Scientific research is lacking on many vitamins and therefore it is hard to conclude either way if a vitamin is beneficial to your health. Some have even been shown to cause harm.
Because of these things, it is important to talk with your primary care provider and/or trusted pharmacist prior to beginning any new vitamins or dietary supplements. In addition, it is a good habit to add any vitamins and herbal supplements you take to your medication list at your doctor’s office.
By Tamara Thorpe, PharmD, MBA
Adair County Health System
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