Time of day, food, and liquid intake can have negative or positive effects on how well a vitamin works and how much of the vitamin is absorbed by the body.
This article explores the general effectiveness of vitamins and the ideal circumstances in which to take different types.
Contents of this article:
- People are open to taking vitamins because they claim to offer natural solutions to common health problems.
- Claims regarding effectiveness may or may not be backed up with clinical studies.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the vitamin and supplement industry.
- Companies can claim that the vitamins they manufacture are effective without reputable research to back up their claims.
- Not all vitamins are ineffective or harmful.
Should a person take vitamins at all?
Medical professionals often recommend eating a varied and nutrient-rich diet, rather than relying on vitamins and supplements.
There is more and more research indicating that, in most cases, taking vitamins has neither a beneficial nor adverse effect in people who take them regularly.
However, people should approach vitamin use with caution as they may have unintended consequences when combined with prescription or over the counter medications.
There are some, such as vitamin-E and beta carotene, that when taken in large doses may be harmful or fatal.
Pregnant women should take particular care when choosing supplements. For example, high levels of Vitamin A can cause congenital disabilities. On the other hand, folic acid can help with the fetus's development and prevent spina bifida.
Some researchers suggest that the best method to get the vitamins is not through supplements at all.
They suggest a person eat nutrient-rich foods such as:
- low-fat meats.
They argue that a vitamin cannot replace a healthy, well-rounded diet.
However, some still believe that a person should take a multivitamin to help fill in the gaps of a less than ideal diet. Also, there is limited research that suggests taking vitamins may play a role in reducing the risk of diseases, such as heart disease.
Still, most vitamins offer no known ill effect for an average, healthy person. Individuals who take regular prescription or over the counter medication should consult their doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.
The best times to take different types of vitamins
When to take B vitamins
B vitamins are used for energy boosts and stress reduction. There are eight different types of B vitamins, each having a separate function for the body. The types of B vitamins include:
- folic acid
- pantothenic acid
These B vitamins can be taken at the same time. In fact, companies offer vitamin complexes, which are combinations of the daily amount of each of the 8 B vitamin types.
The best time of day to take a B vitamin is after waking up. Taking B vitamins on an empty stomach is supposed to help with absorption of the vitamin.
Taking B vitamins also tend to increase energy, so taking them too late in the day may affect a person's ability to fall asleep
When to take water-soluble vitamins
Water soluble vitamins are not produced or stored by the body, so these must be obtained through diet or supplements.
These vitamins are not naturally produced or stored by the human body. As a result, people need to get water-soluble vitamins from animal, plant, and possibly supplemental sources frequently.
Types of water-soluble vitamins include:
- vitamin C
- most vitamin B types
Vitamin C is considered safe to take in recommended amounts.
It is found in a variety of plant products, such as orange juice, grapefruit, and lemons. The body does not store vitamin C, so people should take it daily, ideally in small doses throughout the day.
When to take fat-soluble vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins are needed in small doses. Taking large doses of fat-soluble vitamins can be harmful or toxic to a person's body.
Fat-soluble vitamins are not lost during cooking food. Usually, a person will get all the fat-soluble vitamins they need through food and do not need to take them as supplements.
Some examples of fat-soluble vitamins include:
- vitamin A
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
- vitamin K
These vitamins are stored in the body's liver and fatty tissues. Therefore, they are not needed as often. Because large amounts of these vitamins can lead to ill effects, researchers tend to agree that people should not take supplements containing these vitamins.
The average, healthy person with a balanced diet will get enough fat-soluble vitamins through their regular diet.
When to take prenatal vitamins
It is recommended that women who are considering becoming pregnant take a folic acid supplement for a full year before conception.
It is also recommended that women take prenatal vitamins on a daily basis during their pregnancy. Sometimes doctors will also recommend that women take their prenatal vitamins at a particular time of day.
Setting a timetable of this sort depends on whether or not the woman is experiencing morning sickness, a common pregnancy symptom that makes many women experience nausea and vomiting throughout the day. If the prenatal vitamin increases a woman's feelings of nausea, she can consider taking the vitamin at bedtime with a small amount of food.
There are a variety of prenatal vitamins available, and a pregnant woman should exercise caution when choosing which one to take. Although similar, each one may contain differing amounts of nutrients and ingredients. Typical ingredients include:
- folic acid
Before starting to take prenatal vitamins, a woman should talk to her doctor for suggestions and recommendations. It is possible to overdose on vitamins, which can have ill effects for the woman or baby. Do not take double doses of prenatal vitamins.
As well as vitamin supplements, mineral supplements are also available.
The human body needs both vitamins and minerals to function properly. Like vitamins, minerals are available in over the counter supplements. And, similar to vitamins, there are many claims about what mineral supplements can do for a person's health.
Some example minerals include:
Again, people should exercise caution before taking a mineral supplement. Though they may be beneficial, most research appears to indicate that mineral supplements have no positive effect on a person's health.
It is possible to take too much of a mineral, which can have an adverse effect on a person's health.
People should take minerals daily with food. Taking mineral supplements without food may result in unwanted side effects, such as an upset stomach.
Risks and considerations
People must take care when considering taking vitamin and mineral supplements
Caution is required because claims of effectiveness and actual effectiveness may vary greatly. Also, many vitamins and minerals can be harmful when taken in large doses; other vitamins may interact poorly with medications taken on a regular basis.
As mentioned above, little research actually suggests that supplements are effective in delivering nutrients to the body.
There is limited evidence from independent researchers that suggest that vitamin supplements have any real effect on a person's health at all.
In fact, when taken in too large a dose, some vitamins may actually pose some health risks.
Before starting a vitamin supplement, a person should consult a doctor to make sure that what they are considering taking will be safe. Always try to get vitamins and nutrients from reputable outlets, particularly those specializing in whole foods.