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What Are the Most Important Vitamins to Take?

By Carly Schuna

Your daily diet may be quite different from that of your next door neighbor, your grandparents or your bus driver. This means that the vitamins and minerals that your diet may be lacking probably vary from those in someone else’s diet. Because everyone needs the same essential nutrients, however, a few key supplements can fill the gaps in your eating plan.

Vitamin D

In an article published in December 2013 in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” a group of physicians asserted that most vitamin and mineral supplements are useless at best and harmful at worst. However, the researchers did acknowledge that the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation are still being actively investigated. Those benefits may include reducing the risk of falls for elderly individuals and guarding against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, most Americans do not meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium in their daily diets. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can range from mild nausea, fatigue and weakness to severe cramps, seizures and even coronary spasms. Only about 30 to 40 percent of magnesium from food is absorbed by the body, so supplements can help you meet your daily requirement. Magnesium aids dozens of critical physical tasks, including blood sugar control, protein synthesis and muscle and nerve function.

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B Vitamins

There are eight B vitamins, but those that relate the most to health maintenance are vitamin B-12 and folate, otherwise known as vitamin B-9. Folate supplements are particularly beneficial to pregnant women, as they help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Vegetarians and vegans have few dietary sources of vitamin B-12, which is found naturally only in fish, dairy products, poultry, red meat and eggs. For people who don't get enough B-12, supplements can help encourage proper blood cell production and nervous system functions.

Vitamin Pros and Cons

The specific diet you follow is the most important indicator of which nutrients you may be lacking. Taking a daily multivitamin is a convenient and affordable way to cover nutrient gaps in your diet. And while there is no overwhelming body of evidence that proves multivitamins are beneficial, Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, notes that multivitamins may be helpful for cancer and eye disease.

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