For most adults, a healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs rather than with vitamins and mineral supplements.
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy people get adequate nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation rather than by taking supplements.
In fact, supplements can do more harm than good.
Taking a megadose of a product — especially a fat-soluble vitamin such as A, D, E and K — can cause toxic levels to accumulate in body fat.
A balanced diet is the best strategy for good health, but some people might not be able to achieve healthy eating habits, or they might have conditions that require specific vitamin or mineral supplements.
The elderly, who because of a lack of appetite or other factors might not get enough daily nutrients, might need supplements. Patients with malabsorption diseases who might have trouble absorbing fat-soluble vitamins could benefit from a boost.
Smokers can have reduced vitamin C levels, and strict vegetarians might require supplemental B12 and vitamin D if milk products and sun exposure are minimal. Drugs such as lubricant laxatives and orlistat (Alli) also decrease fat-soluble vitamin absorption.
In addition, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding require additional folic acid, iron and calcium. And many women benefit from calcium supplements to maintain healthy bones.
Evidence suggests that Vitamin D might lower risks for colon and breast cancer.
If you use supplements, buy those labeled "USP." This means that the product meets the United States Pharmacopeia standards.
Also, don't take a dose that is more than 100 percent of the recommended daily value. Always tell your health care professional what vitamin and mineral supplements you are taking, to prevent interactions with prescription medicines.