Indiana Daily Student


Let’s face it. Getting the recommended amount of fruit and vegetable servings each day is about as possible as making it on time to an 8 a.m. class all semester. Taking supplemental vitamins seems to be the next best choice, but Samantha Schaefer, a registered dietitian with IU Health, told us the truth about vitamins.

Samantha says the ways in which people take vitamins may actually be having a negative effect on their health.

“I found it interesting that a majority of the people that are using them are probably the people that aren’t as in high of need,” she says. “So they might be the ones that are actually supplementing more, which puts them maybe at a possible risk of an adverse reaction by getting too much.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a universal vitamin that benefits all age and race demographics, but Samantha recommends using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a reference point in the basic nutrients everyone should consume.

“There are some nutrients that I think the dietary guidelines focuses on, not necessarily for supplementation but just to make sure that we’re getting enough of in our diet,” she says. “That’s typically the calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, in adults and children, and vitamins A and C in adults.”

Samantha finds patients abusing the popular gummy vitamins.

“I think when we have the gummy vitamins or things that taste really good or more like candy, it might lead people to take more of them, and think of them more as a food,” she says. “What ends up happening is there are adverse effects. Those are very specific with each multivitamin and mineral you’re dealing with.”

Gummy vitamins included, Samantha says that supplements should never replace the food in our diet.

“Foods play a very important role in a healthy diet,” she says. “I think it’s important for us to remember that not only is a supplement just that, but foods contain hundreds of natural occurring substances that can protect our health.”

Samantha spills on popular supplements used by students.

What is it used for?
Melatonin is commonly used to treat jet lag or sleep problems such as insomnia.

Is it safe?
Taken in low doses for short-term and long-term use, melatonin is safe in most cases.

What are the side effects?
Sleepiness, vivid dreams, and low body temperature are a few side effects, but will end when you have stopped taking the supplement.

Fish oil
What is it used for?
Fish oil supplements aid in lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, and reducing the change of abnormal heart rhythm.

Is it safe?
The American Heart Association suggests taking no more than 3 grams of fish oil supplements per day.

What are the side effects?
Side effects could include a fishy taste in your mouth, fishy breath, and an upset stomach.

Vitamin C
What is it used for?
Vitamin C supplements are often used for the common cold and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Is it safe?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance suggests females 19 years and up should take 75 mg/day and males 19 years and up should take 90 mg/day.

What are the side effects?

Vitamin C is safe for most people when taken by mouth or when applied to the skin, but more than 2000 mg/day is unsafe and may cause side effects such as kidney stones and diarrhea.

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