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Consumption of dietary and vitamin supplements is cultural

Getting into a chemist (Oceania and the UK)/pharmacy (US) in Australia, you notice immediately the wide range of dietary and vitamin supplements occupying almost a third of the store. There are a variety of choices from A to Z of brands locally and internationally. But, in France and Luxembourg this is not the case. Often, you have to ask the staff for common vitamin supplements, such as Omega 3 and grape seed tablets, which are stocked between beauty products and medicines. In developing countries of Asia, Africa and Central & South America, these are highly unaffordable for most people. Surprisingly, however, the Nielsen study showed that Asians (and North Americans) lead the world in the usage of dietary and vitamin supplements with the highest levels found in the Philippines and Thailand (66% compared to 56% in the USA). Europe (30%) and Latin America (28%) had the lowest intake (France and Spain at the bottom: 17% and 13% respectively). The respondents' main reason for not taking vitamins was that "their diets were already balanced while those in Poland, Russia and the Baltic states felt that "it is too difficult to understand which product to use." (''North-America, Asia lead vitamin and supplement usage'').

It is known that, generally, Europeans have poor vitamin D. A comparative study of eating habits and calcium & vitamin D intakes in Central-Eastern European countries conducted by the Faculty of Health Sciences in Semmelweis University, Hungary headed by Dr. Katalin Tátrai-Nèmeth concluded that the highest calcium intake was in the Hungarian population while the lowest in Slovenia, and vitamin D intake was critically low in both of these countries. (''A comparative study of eating habits calcium and vitamin D intakes in the population'').

As my biological age increases, I become more interested in multi/vitamin supplements and have actually started taking them to boost my immune system and cope with the passing of time. I have always followed a nutritious diet, have low cholesterol, high energy level and good Mass Body Index, and so probably don't need vitamin supplements. Therefore, for me, “consumption” is the right word to describe my endeavour to feel better.

Many experts maintain that vitamin supplements can improve many bodily functions and mental health, help decrease stress and improve mood. I, too, believe that these supplements can help solve nutrient deficiency that may cause ill health. However, some of these are simply excreted by our body if we consume more than we need. According to the many articles that I have read, some of them, such as niacin and vitamins A, B-6, C and D, even have negative effects when taken in high amounts (e.g. stomach upset, itching, headache and kidney stone).

Whatever your reason for taking dietary and vitamin supplements, ensure that you have a healthy, balanced diet and stay within the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs). As well, read their labels carefully keeping an eye on the dose, ingredients and expiry date. Next time you visit your doctor, ask her/his opinion about your needs and your consumption (and if you have not started yet, seek advice before doing so).

Meanwhile, the following necessary nutrients and vitamins are found in your vegetables and fruits: Vitamin A (for growth and development of cells, prevention of eye problems and keeping a healthy skin) – e.g. milk, eggs, liver, green vegetables, apricots, mangoes, papayas and peaches.

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin - helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and is necessary for the heart, muscles and nervous system to function properly) – e.g. pasta and whole grains like wheat germ, lean meats, dried beans, soy foods and peas.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin which is essential for growth, turning carbohydrates into energy and producing red blood cells) – e.g. meat, eggs, broccoli, legumes (like peas and lentils), nuts, dairy products and green leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin - helps the body turn food into energy and is important for nerve function) – e.g. red meat, poultry, fish, peanuts and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B6 (essential for brain and nerve function and helps the body break down proteins and make red blood cells) – e.g. fortified cereals, potatoes, bananas, beans, seeds, nuts, red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and spinach.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate or folic acid is needed to make DNA and helps the body make red blood cells) – e.g. orange juice, liver, dried beans and other legumes, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin B12 (helps to make red blood cells and is important for nerve cell function) – e.g. fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid is essential for healthy bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels and contributes to healthy brain function) – e.g. citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, guava, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and spinach.
  • Vitamin D (‘sunlight’ strengthens bones by absorbing bone-building calcium) – e.g. egg yolks, oily fish such as salmon and sardines, and fortified foods like orange juice and milk.
  • Vitamin E (an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and aids red blood cells) – e.g. vegetable oils, nuts, avocadoes, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
  • Without Vitamin K, we could bleed to death from a simple cut. In elderly people, Vitamin K helps maintain bone strength; and this can be found in asparagus, kale, spinach, turnips, Brussels sprouts, parsley and broccoli.

Let’s enjoy our food, look after our body and mind, and be happy without doing something to someone that we don’t want done to us.

(from my website Rolade Societal Blog -


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