Are vitamin supplements necessary?

Young woman taking a fish supplement pill
Photo: © Puhhha / 123RF Stock Photo

The teenage years are a time of immense change, both physically and mentally. Some pass through their teenage years without incident, transforming from sweet kids into pleasant adults, but more often this is a period of intense emotions, raging hormones, and absolute chaos. A healthy diet during this time is important as the foods that teenagers eat leave a great impact on their health when they reach adulthood. It is during this period that most parents of teenagers worry if their child is getting enough or all nutrients from foods of all the food groups. This becomes more of a concern if the child is a picky eater, eats more of junk foods over home cooked nutritious meals, and has any health issues and much more. This is when nutritional needs are fulfilled through vitamin supplementation. However, parents must be cautious about avoiding any mega doses of vitamins as these can be harmful to their health. And before putting their teenagers on any vitamin supplementation, parents must seek the advice of their doctors.

What can vitamins do?

It should be possible to get all the vitamins required from a healthy and balanced diet, but sometimes vitamin supplements can help. But can a vitamin supplement really turn a bad diet into a healthy one?

Vitamin supplementation is very beneficial but not just for weight loss or to replace a diet with nutrients. Their primary function is to fill in small nutrient gaps. They are ‘supplements’ intended to add to your diet, not to take the place of real food or a healthy meal plan. Thus, one needs to make sure to get all nutrients from food plus from the extra supplementation that fulfils nutrient needs. Parents of teenagers must know “Food First and Then Supplements”.

Vitamins do play major roles in areas such as:

Growth: Vitamins such as vitamin D & B are important for cell growth, and are especially needed during teenagers’ growth spurts. These vitamins are also used in energy metabolism, and so their requirement increases as teenagers’ need for extra calories increases.

Restricted diets: Some teenagers decide to become vegetarian or vegan, either for health or ethical reasons. These can be healthy diets, but care should be taken to eat a wide and balanced range of foods, including all the right vitamins. It is hard to get enough vitamin B12 in a vegan diet, and vegan-friendly vitamin supplements can help.

Hormones: Girls in their teens who have started their periods may find that vitamin B6 in food or as a supplement, helps with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). If taken as a supplement, it should only be taken as per a recommended dose by the doctor.

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Dhrishti Bijlani
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Dhrishti Bijlani

Armed with a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Dhrishti Bijlani's goal is to make it easier for everyone to eat right and get more habituated to a healthy lifestyle.