How to supplement safely using FDA guidelines

When it comes to your long-term health, there is no replacement for a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. It can be hard to live up to these ideals, though — that’s where supplements can come in. If you’ve decided to take vitamins or supplements to reach your health goals, you need to make sure you do it safely. Read on to learn about FDA designated upper limits to ensure you are supplementing the safe way.

Your guide to the essential vitamins and minerals

There are 13 essential vitamins and 16 essential minerals that our bodies need to function healthily, but that we do not naturally synthesize on their own. A deficiency in any one of them can have serious consequences, but it is equally important to note that too much of a particular nutrient can be as harmful as too little. Consuming excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals can lead to toxicity.

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The essential vitamins can be divided into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed more quickly than fat-soluble vitamins, but are also excreted more easily. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are all water-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, are more likely to cause side effects when taken in excess, because they build up more easily in the body. Since fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body’s tissues, they will accumulate over time if consumed in excess. For this reason, you should use caution when supplementing with fat-soluble vitamins.

Essential minerals can also accumulate in the body and pose risks. Additionally, some of the minerals required by the body are needed in only small amounts. For example, the minerals iron and selenium can be particularly problematic when consumed in too high of an amount.

Guidance on nutrient intake from the FDA

Too make sure that people are consuming the appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has published guidelines for dietary intakes. You may even be familiar with a few of them.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, and the Adequate Intake, or AI, are the baseline amounts of a vitamin or mineral that are recommended for avoiding deficiencies. These guidelines are set according to gender and age group.

The Food and Nutrition Board has also set a Tolerable Upper Intake Level, or UL, for each of the vitamins and minerals. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), a UL is “the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population.” It is also important to note that the UL refers to the total intake from food, water, and supplements.

You can learn more about specific Upper Limits on the National Institute of Health website, where tables for vitamins and minerals are published.

It is important to note that many supplements, including antioxidants or herbal products, do not have designated Upper Limits. This does not mean that they do not pose risks in high amounts. For this reason, added caution should be taken when using these types of dietary supplements.

Before beginning a supplement regimen, consult a healthcare professional or take a convenient online survey to receive personalized recommendations.

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