Vitamins are organic compounds that our bodies use, in very small amounts, for a variety of metabolic processes. It is best to get vitamins and minerals from eating a variety of healthy unprocessed foods.
Your body only needs a small amount of vitamins and minerals every day. A varied diet generally provides enough of each vitamin and mineral. However, some people may need supplements to correct deficiencies of particular vitamins or minerals.
- Pregnant women
- Women who are breastfeeding
- People who drink alcohol above the amount that is recommended for reducing risk of disease (one standard drink a day for non-pregnant women and two for men)
- Cigarette smokers
- Illegal drug users
- Crash dieters or people on chronic low-calorie diets
- The elderly (especially those who are disabled or chronically ill)
- Some vegetarians or vegans
- Women with excessive bleeding during menstruation
- People with allergies to particular foods
- People with malabsorption problems such as diarrhoea, coeliac disease or pancreatitis.
The consumption of some dietary supplements may also help prevent cancer. A number of essential vitamins, including vitamins A, C and E, act as antioxidants in the body. They work to neutralize chemicals called free radicals that cause oxidative damage within your cells. The National Cancer Institute explains that oxidative damage to your cells promotes cancer development. While studies on the effect of antioxidant supplements in preventing cancer in humans have proved inconsistent so far, consuming moderate amounts of antioxidant vitamin supplements may prove beneficial to your health.