The findings of a new study have revealed that popping a vitamin pill as a replacement for not having a balanced diet has become a common practice. One in three people surveyed said they take vitamins or supplements every day, while only one in four said they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. One in three people who take vitamins and supplements said they generally eat a balanced diet but take multivitamins to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need. One in ten (10 per cent) said they take vitamins and supplements so that they don’t have to worry about eating a balanced Diet.
Why vitamin pills should never replace food?
Deepshikha Agarwal, dietician and sports nutritionist, says, “Vitamin deficiencies have become very common across all age groups because of the lifestyle we lead and our eating patterns.
Also, the kind of diet that people have has also contributed to the increase in the number of cases of people suffering from vitamin deficiencies. I have come across cases where youngsters in their 20s are facing vitamin deficiencies. Lacking in vitamin B12, vitamin D and folic acid and in minerals like calcium and iron are very common. What people need to understand is that the word supplement itself tells you that it’s an addition to the food you are eating and cannot be a replacement for essential meals. A person should ensure that they include items from every food group to meet the nutritional requirements of our body and this should not be replaced by any kind of pills or supplements.”
Dr Anil Ballani, consultant physician, Hinduja and Lilavati Hospital, adds, “It’s a very bad idea to substitute fruits and veggies with pills. We are losing out on the fibre that we get from fruits and veggies. Fibre helps in avoiding constipation, reduces blood sugar and cholesterol. Fruits and veggies give us a lot of natural vitamins an minerals. Fruits give us anti-oxidants, which are good for our heart while veggies are a good source of iron.”
Who should have vitamin supplements?
Dr RK Anand, senior paediatric consultant, Jaslok Hospital, says, “There is no substitute for fruits, vegetables and sprouts. A balanced diet along with sun-exposure can meet the requirements of most individuals. People forget that besides vitamins, fruits and vegetables also give us other essential items like fibre. However, vitamin supplements may be needed for pregnant and breast feeding women, premature babies, poor children in rural areas, preschool children and adolescents who do not consume a balanced diet and miss sun-exposure. I have seen the side
effects of excessive supplementation with vitamin D in children. Such children present with marked irritability, loss of appetite and vomiting.”