Take your vitamins

Feb 092006
Authors: Kristen Majors

It may feel like spring, but don't be fooled. The worst of flu season has yet to come. Although this has proven to be a slow year for the flu so far, registered dietitian Kyle Burger still recommends that everyone take a multi-vitamin to protect against disease and deficiency.

CeCelia Nutter, a registered nurse at Hartshorn Health Service, said that flu cases have been straggling in all year, but the expected peak has not yet arrived.

"It's especially important this time of year to ensure you have adequate vitamins because if you're a little bit deficient it'll make you a little immune compromised," Burger said, "where you might be more apt to get the flu or catch a cold or just not feel as well."

Burger suggests a standard, daily multi-vitamin instead of different, more specified vitamins. A bottle of multi-vitamins can be found at any grocery store for around $10. Store brands are less expensive than name brands and are usually the same, Burger said.

"Vitamins have an extraordinarily long shelf life, so if you have a Sam's Club card or you find a way you can buy them in bulk, that's another option because they'll keep at least a year or so before they start losing anything," Burger said.

Signs of vitamin deficiency are dry, stringy hair and unhealthy nail beds. The body is also not as efficient in protecting itself against diseases, repairing itself or growing. A multi-vitamin could help a person suffering a deficiency feel more energized, sleep better and protect against diseases.

Burger also advises college-aged females to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements on top of the daily multi-vitamin to ensure adequate bone mass. Vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium. Bones stop building in density around age 30 and start losing mass later in life, so calcium in the early 20s helps bones reach their peak mass.

Another vitamin recommended for females of childbearing age is folic acid, which assists in the instance of pregnancy. Many cereals are now fortified with folic acid.

Strict vegans or people who do not intake many animal products also have specific vitamin needs.

"B-12 is important to get through the diet and there are not animal supplementations of B-12," Burger said. "It is an essential nutrient in that we don't make any of it but we need it. You want to try to get around 100 percent."

As far as specific vitamins for special needs, such as weight loss, energy or extra immunity, Burger said nothing necessarily helps.

"A lot of times within strongly organic stores or nutrition supplement stores there're a lot of vitamins that claim that it'll speed up your metabolism," Burger said. "There really isn't anything proven as far as that goes."

He also stressed that taking 100 percent of the daily allowance of any vitamin is about the best you can do; taking 200 percent will not accomplish anything more.

Sarah Ryan, freshman health promotions major, takes both calcium and a multi-vitamin, and said she hasn't gotten sick since she started taking them.

"I take multi-vitamins because I was getting sick a lot at the beginning of the year, and I take calcium because I'm lactose intolerant and have to avoid dairy products," she said.

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