You probably don’t need to take vitamins. These are the people who do

Our vitamin needs evolve throughout our lives, from the rapid growth period of childhood to the point where our bodies stop absorbing and producing certain nutrients as we age. There are several times when we are more vulnerable to deficiencies.

Many of us have been taking vitamins our entire lives—from the chalky Flintstones tablets to something a little more grown-up like a gummy vitamin. Most people typically get all the vitamins and minerals they need through their diet, but there are times when food just isn’t enough and vitamin supplements are needed to fill in the gaps.

Vitamins are often seen as a surefire way to improve our health. However, that’s not always the case. A recent study found that multivitamins do not help you live longer, as many claim. Your diet will always be the best source of vitamins and nutrients, but there are times when supplements are needed to support your health. Here’s what you need to know.

What are vitamins? Why are they important?

Our bodies need vitamins for development and proper functioning. Most of the vitamins our bodies depend on come from our food. This means that the average American does not need to take vitamin supplements if they have a healthy, balanced diet which consists of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains.

However, this is not always the case. There are times when vitamin or mineral supplements are necessary. Dietary restrictions or natural deficiencies can prevent you from getting enough of certain vitamins. Iron, vitamin D, B12, and calcium are among the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Unless you have a home test or a blood test performed by your doctor, you will not know if you have a vitamin deficiency. This makes it more difficult to determine when to start taking a supplement.

read more: Best Vitamin Subscription

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Common Symptoms of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

“Vitamin deficiency” is a broad term. In many cases, you may only be deficient in one vitamin. Below are the 13 essential vitamins and the common deficiency symptoms for each.

Vitamin A: Gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease or cirrhosis of the liver can affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin A properly. The most common symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are frequent infections, skin irritation, night blindness or blurred vision.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C deficiency is not common in developed countries. However, it does affect 7.1% of American adults. Vitamin C is crucial for collagen production in our bodies. A deficiency is associated with damaged skin and slow-healing wounds. Easy bruising is one of the most common warning signs of this deficiency.

Vitamin D: Our body converts sunlight into vitamin D. It is essential for our immune health and has been linked to a lower risk of COVID-19 infection. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to frequent illness, lower bone metabolism and muscle pain.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. Although rare in healthy people, vitamin E deficiency contributes to nerve and muscle damage that can lead to vision problems or loss of sensation in your arms or legs.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and cardiovascular health. It also plays a role in bone development. If you are deficient, you are at higher risk for heart disease, bleeding problems, and reduced bone strength. Vitamin K deficiency is generally rare in adults. However, infants are at risk for vitamin K deficiency bleeding, or VKDB.

Vitamin B: There are eight B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folate and folic acid, and vitamin B12. Older adults and pregnant women are at greater risk of vitamin B deficiency. Symptoms may include anemia, fatigue, or weakness.

Vitamin requirements by age group

The vitamins our bodies need to grow and function change throughout our lives. As we age, our bodies become less effective at absorbing or producing certain vitamins. Below are the nutritional requirements for each age group.

read more: Best multivitamins

Babies and children

Baby formula is fortified with vitamins, so you don’t need to worry about extra supplements if they’re getting more than 17 ounces (500 milliliters) of formula a day. When it comes to vitamin D, breastfed babies need an extra source. The Americans and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that breastfed babies also get a supplement of 400 international units, or IU, of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is not only essential for bone development, but it also prevents rickets.

Childhood is a period of significant physical growth and extreme cognitive development. The U.S. government recommends supplements, including vitamins A, C, and D, daily for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

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Adolescents and teenagers

With increased growth and metabolism, the nutritional needs of adolescents and teens increase. In general, the daily recommendation for children ages 9 to 18 is at least 1,300 mg of calcium, 1.8 to 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B, and 11 IU of vitamin E. The average teen can meet their daily needs from a healthy diet.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board provides reference points for healthy children and adults. Remember, these numbers are based on averages. You should talk to your doctor if you suspect your teen has a vitamin deficiency.


The National Institutes of Health suggests that the average adult needs about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day to maintain bone density into adulthood. A supplement may be necessary during the fall and winter months, when you can’t get enough vitamin D from the sun. It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet.

Women and women who are breastfeeding are at the highest risk of nutritional deficiencies compared to other groups. Pregnancy changes a woman’s nutritional needs, requiring more macronutrients and micronutrients. The CDC recommends pregnant women take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent possible birth defects.

Breastfeeding mothers must produce enough nutrients to provide their infants with what they need. As a result, the recommended intake of vitamin A nearly doubles with breastfeeding to about 1,300 milligrams per day.


Parts of the elderly population are susceptible to vitamin deficiencies due to concerns about chewing difficulties or medical conditions. Additionally, as we age, our bodies naturally absorb less vitamin B12 from the foods we eat. Up to 43% of elderly people have a B12 deficiency. People over 50 should take a vitamin B12 supplement or include fortified foods in their diet. Concentrated B12 injections are also available.

Calcium is another nutrient that our intestines absorb less of as we age, which can lead to weak bones or frequent fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that adults 70 and older consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day.

In the elderly, vitamin deficiencies can accumulate. A lack of calcium in the body is related to a vitamin D deficiency that occurs in the elderly, because our body is less effective in producing it. Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.

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Too long, didn’t read?

Unless you are deficient in certain vitamins, you probably don’t need to take vitamins regularly, provided you eat a balanced diet. Vitamins have benefits, but they are not a quick way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Vitamins are just one piece of the puzzle when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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