Fish oil, vitamin D and calcium supplements. Photo credit: Brianna Benitez

Editor’s note: The content in this article provides information on the potential risks and effects that may occur when choosing to consume supplements in order to help consumers decide if vitamin and mineral supplements are right for them.

Throughout the country, stores stock their shelves with a variety of vitamin and mineral supplements holding promises to increase energy, strengthen immune systems, promote hair growth and more. The overwhelming amount of vitamins to choose from can leave consumers feeling confused and eager to try supplements that sound most hopeful.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, 86% of Americans take vitamins regularly, however, only 21% of those individuals have a confirmed nutritional deficiency.

Dr. Sarah Doss, chief medical officer of the Student Health Center, said although vitamins and minerals are necessary to live a healthy lifestyle, the majority of healthy adults receive sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals in their diet.

“There are no recommended vitamins for healthy young people,” Doss said. “What is instead recommended is that you eat a diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.”

Doss said it is recommended that individuals who are not able to absorb sufficient vitamin levels and individuals who do not receive enough vitamins in their diets, such as vegans, take vitamins.

The Student Health Center currently carries multivitamin gummies for $7.50. However, Doss said she does not recommend for healthy individuals to purchase them.

“If you take a multivitamin and think ‘Now I don’t need to eat my broccoli,’ that’s not a good choice,” Doss said. “It’s much better to eat the fruits and vegetables than it is to take a multivitamin supplement.”

As for students who find it difficult to stick to a healthy diet, Benjamin Bindesil, operating partner of Rock’s Discount Vitamins, said supplements may be beneficial for those who lack the essential vitamins and minerals in their diets.

Rock’s Discount Vitamins is a chain supplement store with locations throughout central and south Texas. Rock’s Discount Vitamins’ San Marcos location is located at 102 Wonder World Dr.

Bindesil said he has been working with vitamin and nutritional supplements for over 10 years and has seen how difficult it can be for individuals to maintain a healthy diet.

“Because of work, school and kids our diets tend to not be as sufficient as we need them to be,” Bindesil said. “We tend to go for faster, easier things to eat and therefore have a hard time getting nutrients in.”

Bindesil said supplements may help fill in the lack of nutrition for those who do not consume enough vitamins and minerals in their diets. He said he recommends college students to take a multivitamin regularly.

“I know when it comes to college the food intake may be scattered,” Bindesil said. “Taking a multivitamin would ensure your body has the right vitamins and minerals for immune and daily function.”

For those who choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements, can recognize the potential risks that may come with them.

Lindsey Menge, nutrition and foods professor, said there is not a lot of regulation on supplements in the United States. She said those who do choose to take supplements should consider supplements from brands that are third party verified.

Brands that are third party verified indicate that an independent party has evaluated the supplements for their quality and has ensured that what is listed on the label meets the guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We have very little regulation policies so a lot of what is in the market hasn’t been tested for effectiveness or safety,” Menge said. “It’s important to make sure that there is a third party verification on the supplement so that you know what you’re taking.”

Menge said the reason why the FDA does little to regulate vitamin and mineral supplements is due to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. The act states that supplements are not categorized as drugs and therefore do not undergo the same rigorous testing as FDA approved drugs.

“Many types of supplements are out there, but we may not know how effective they are,” Menge said. “The obligation is put on the companies that manufacture the supplements to ensure the effectiveness and safety of their products.”

Certain vitamins can have toxic effects if they are being consumed by individuals who do not have a reason to take them. Menge said fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D and E, are more prone to cause toxic effects since they are stored in the body for longer periods of time.

“Most Americans are consuming supplements because they feel that’s what’s going to make them healthier or perform better,” Menge said. “If there isn’t a deficiency then we don’t see added benefits for supplementation.”

For more information on vitamin and mineral supplements speak with a trusted health care provider or visit https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/dietary-supplements.

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