Do I Need a Vitamin or Mineral Supplement?

In some cases, your doctor may recommend taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, but if you eat a healthy diet, you may be able to skip the daily multivitamin.

Doctors recommend vitamin/mineral supplements for some people

Groups of people who may need to take dietary supplements include:

  • People over the age of 50. The ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food decreases with age. Crystalline B12 (found in fortified foods and supplements) is absorbed more easily.
  • People over the age of 65. Bones become weaker with age. A vitamin D supplement may reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Women who may become pregnant. Women of childbearing age should eat foods that contain folate and get 400 micrograms a day of folic acid from a supplement or fortified cereals and grain products.
  • Women who are pregnant. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin that contains iron.
  • People with certain medical conditions. You may need a daily supplement if you have a medical condition such as inflammatory bowel disease that affects how well your body absorbs nutrients.
  • People with heart disease. Your doctor may recommend a fish oil supplement if you don't eat fish.
  • People with a restricted diet. You may need a supplement if you have a food allergy or intolerance or are a vegetarian or vegan.
  • Women with heavy periods. Your doctor may recommend an iron supplement if you have heavy periods that cause anemia.

A healthy diet may be all you need

If you're worried you aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals, look at your diet first. Supplements can't replace the full health benefits of a nutritious diet. Healthy foods contain substances that supplements don't contain, like bioactive compounds (chemicals found in foods that may promote good health) and fiber, and some supplements can't be fully absorbed by the body.

Your doctor, nurse practitioner or a dietitian can help you learn what a healthy diet looks like. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is also a great resource.

Talk to your doctor or NP

Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner before taking any dietary supplements, and tell him or her about any supplements you are already taking. Some supplements can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions or when taken in combination with certain medicines. In rare cases, some supplements such as vitamin D can cause health problems if you take them when you don't need them.

Before prescribing supplements, your doctor will review your medical history and ask about your diet and any medicines you take. He or she may also run a blood test to check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Looking for a great partner to help get your health on track?  Schedule an appointment with one of our primary care physicians or nurse practitionernear you!


Trisha is a certified Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). She joined The Christ Hospital Physicians in 2017, specializing in adult and geriatric medicine. She worked previously as a registered nurse on our medical step-down/telemetry unit and at our Diabetes and Endocrine Center from 2011-17, providing specialized care to individuals with diabetes and complex cardiac conditions.