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Vitamins 101

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2007

When it comes to vitamins, do you know which ones you should be taking and which ones you don't need? To help make better sense of it all, Dr. Andrew Weil provided the following helpful tips and guidelines:

Basic Information
- Supplements are not substitutes for the whole foods that contain those nutrients, but they can provide insurance against gaps in your diet.
- Vitamin D offers protective effects that you can't get in dietary foods.
- Vitamins are one class of dietary supplements. There are also minerals, etc.
- Fish oil is one of the most underrated supplements. In fact, the most serious supplement deficiency in our population is fish oil. It is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the body against heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. It also aids in brain function and is especially important for kids. Also underrated is Vitamin D for cancer prevention and bone health.
- Vitamin C is one of the most overrated supplements, as it does not require huge doses. Your body can't use more than 200 milligrams per day.
- Vitamin boosts in smoothies, water, and energy drinks are mostly marketing gimmicks, with some containing caffeine and sugar. Vitamin water is an expensive way to take vitamins, and it doesn't have enough of what you need.
- Red rice yeast is an effective supplement to naturally lower your cholesterol.
- Antioxidants bolster the body's defenses against cancer. Vitamin D protects against lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
- Pay attention to expiration dates. Certain supplements like fish oil can go rancid. Also, watch dates on aspirin.
- It's important to take vitamins after a full meal -- you don't want to get an upset stomach. Also, some vitamins need fat in the stomach to be absorbed (like E and D). Coffee and a bagel won't do the trick.

Vitamin Guidelines
Children's Vitamins
- Fish oil (1,000-2,000 mg)
- Children's multivitamin with iron

Women under 40
- Fish oil (1,000-2,000 mg)
- Multivitamin (no retinol or iron)
- Vitamin D3 (1,000 IU)
- Calcium (250 mg twice daily)

Women over 40
- Fish oil (1,000-2,000 mg)
- Multivitamin (no retinol or iron)
- Vitamin D3 (1,000 IU)
- Calcium (250 mg twice daily)
- Low-dose baby aspirin (162 mg; check with your doctor before taking)

Men
- Fish oil (1,000-2,000 mg)
- Multivitamin (no retinol or iron)
- Vitamin D3 (1,000 units)
- Low-dose baby aspirin (162 mg; check with your doctor before taking )

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Dr. Andrew Weil. Get more information about vitamins from his best-selling book "Healthy Aging" and his Self Healing newsletter. Learn more at www.drweilselfhealing.com.