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Vitamins: Are they essential, or useless?

March 25th, 2010

Americans spend over 6 billion dollars on vitamins every year, and about 40 percent take at least one vitamin daily to aid their bodies in functioning normally.

“I’ve taken vitamins before, but I don’t take them now,” said freshman Gillian Ganley. “I don’t really know much about them.”

Those that do understand the benefits of vitamins may still choose to find their nutrients elsewhere.

Senior Sara Nunney gets her nutrients from a drink mix.

“I don’t take vitamins because my mom told me to mix Ovaltine in my milk,” she said. “I drink  a glass of it every morning, and it gives me the vitamins that I need.”

Depending on one’s diet and exercise routine, vitamins can be imperative to leading a healthy lifestyle.

“Vitamins are essential. There are some who believe you should augment your diet with a multivitamin, but I usually say it’sa complicated issue,” said Karen Palmer, nutritionist for John Carroll’s Health Center.  “Vitamins and minerals are necessary to helping with our bodily processes.”

Palmer said that for college students, it’s not a bad idea to take a multivitamin once a day.

“I’ve never taken vitamins before but since eating on campus, I’ve decided that I need to start taking them,” said freshman Keti Suljai. “I even have a list of things I need from CVS, and on it is multivitamins.”

For those who don’t eat healthy, relying on vitamins to keep your body in good condition isn’t the best idea, according to Palmer.

“You can’t say ‘I’m not eating right, I’m just going to take a vitamin,’ because there is no one vitamin that’s going to give you everything,” she said.

On the other hand, even people who do eat healthy may not be getting the vitamins and minerals needed daily.

For example, every hour a freshly picked apple sits out, it loses vitamins. Similarily, humans can be deficient in vitamins, making them even more essential to take.

According to senior Teree Harris,  a member of the football team, taking a multivitamin everyday is crucial for him during the season.

“Taking [a multivitamin] helps keep my body strong and healthy which is important,” he said.

Our bodies rely on vitamins to grow and develop, but also to ward off disease and boost immune systems.

According to vitaguide.org, every year an estimated 500,000 strokes, 1.3 million cases of cancer, and 14 million cases of heart disease can be prevented by taking a multivitamin daily.

Vitamins typically fall into two different categories: fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, are stored in the liver and fat tissues of the body until needed.

Nourishedkitchen.com, a Web  site that displays recipes with nourishing, whole foods, states that low-fat, no-fat and vegan diets are lacking in fat soluble vitamins. The higher quality the fat, the more likely the food is to contain the fat soluble vitamins.

Vitamin D, one example of a fat soluble vitamin, helps the body absorb calcium for bones to grow. It can be found naturally through the skin from sunlight, or through egg yolks, and milk fortified with vitamin D.

Water soluble vitamins, such as vitamins C and B (complex vitamins), need to dissolve in water before the body can absorb them.

These vitamins cannot be stored and need to be replaced often.

Different vitamins are beneficial to certain parts of the body and can be consumed by taking a daily vitamin or by consuming different types of food.

Regardless of how vitamins are consumed, it is important that they are obtained for the body’s sake.