Vitamins and Your Health



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The ABCs (and Ks) of Vitamins and Minerals

(ARA) - Do you have questions about vitamins and minerals? The independent public health organization, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), sets industry standards for dietary supplements and has developed the Dietary Supplement Verification Program (DSVP). The following are answers to common questions about vitamins and minerals.

Q. What are vitamins and minerals?

A. They are nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Vitamins and minerals are in many foods you eat, but you can also take a supplement to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.

Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your bodyís fat tissues where they are used when needed. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored very well in the body. B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins. Your body needs a fresh supply of the water-soluble vitamins from food or supplements on a regular basis. What your body doesnít use is lost through urine or sweat.

Like vitamins, minerals are necessary for vital body functions. Trace minerals are needed by your body in small amounts. Chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc are all trace minerals. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts in order for your body to grow and stay healthy. For example, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium are macrominerals.

Q. Why do people take vitamin and mineral supplements?

A. Supplements can be an inexpensive way to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, even if you get most of them from the foods you eat. Some people take supplements because they canít eat certain foods. For example, milk is a good calcium source, but some people canít drink it.

Q. How are vitamin and mineral dietary supplements regulated?

A. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates vitamin and mineral dietary supplements as a food product.

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) created the Dietary Supplement Verification Program (DSVP) to help consumers be sure that what is on the label is whatís in the bottle. Supplement makers can earn the DSVP symbol by having their products tested by USP.

Q. What is the DSVP certification symbol?

A. This symbol lets consumers know that USP has tested and checked the ingredients and manufacturing process of the supplement. This means the supplement has passed important tests to help assure you that the product actually contains the ingredients listed in the strengths indicated on the label. It also assures you the product will dissolve so the ingredients will be absorbed into your body, and was produced in sanitary, well-controlled conditions and has been screened for harmful substances like bacteria and pesticides.

Q. Are all vitamin and mineral supplements with the DSVP mark made to the same level of quality?

A. USP does not rate vitamins and minerals or compare them with each other. However, USP does look at each product that it verifies to help ensure that the ingredients on the label are actually in the product and meet its standards.

Q. How do I know if a vitamin or mineral dietary supplement meets USP's standards?

A. Look for dietary supplements that have the DSVP symbol, or the letters ďUSPĒ on the front of the label.

Q. What do I need to know about the quality of vitamin and mineral supplements before I buy or take them?

A. USP uses detailed laboratory tests to check the quality of vitamin and mineral supplements. These are some of the things you will want to take into account:

1. Most supplements are available as either tablets or capsules and may dissolve fairly quickly or quite slowly in your body. This affects how well your body can absorb the vitamins and minerals and is why DSVP on the label is important.

2. Quantity or strength is an important factor to consider when buying or taking supplements. Products with the DSVP mark contain the amount listed on the label. Before taking a supplement, please ask your doctor or health professional about the supplements and the amount you need to take. Different people may need different amounts of supplements.

3. When buying vitamin and mineral supplements, check the expiration date on the bottle to make sure you will use all its contents before the date. A product past this date on the package could mean that the supplement no longer meets USP standards.

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