Vitamins & Supplements Archive


What you need to know about calcium

Calcium is billed as the bone-building nutrient. But some experts argue that we should pay more attention to exercise and vitamin D.

Starting on your 51st birthday, current government guidelines say you're supposed to consume 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. With advancing years, both men and women begin to experience a decline in the density of bones that makes them weaker and more likely to break. In essence, your bone becomes more porous, and calcium supposedly fills in the holes.

But the amount of calcium adults need continues to be debated. The critics say there's little evidence that high intake has more than a marginal effect on bone density and fracture prevention. They say exercise and reversing vitamin D deficiency are not promoted enough and are more important for bone health. Professor Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the leading lights in the critical camp.

Listing of vitamins

The list of vitamins  and minerals below can give you an understanding of how particular different types of vitamins  and minerals work in your body, how much of each nutrient you need every day , and what types of food to eat to ensure that you are getting an adequate supply. The recommendations in this vitamins chart are based largely on guidelines from the Institute of Medicine. Recommended amounts of different types of vitamins  may be expressed in milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), or international units (IU), depending on the nutrient. Unless specified, values represent those for adults ages 19 and older.

Vitamins and dietary supplements

Your daily diet should be the best source of the vitamins and minerals you need, but not always. Dr. Howard LeWine explains when vitamins and dietary supplements can be a benficial addition to your diet.

Benefit of calcium supplements

What's the benefit of calcium supplements? For women over 30, calcium is an important part of the ffight against bone loss. Supplements can help in that fight. Dr. JoAnn Manson talks more about this vital nutrient.

Time for more vitamin D

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

Missing out on the "sunshine vitamin" has consequences for more than just bone health.

The ups and downs of folic acid fortification

During our reproductive years, extra folic acid is essential. After that, it may be too much.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin found naturally in various fruits, vegetables, and legumes. We need folate to produce and maintain new cells (in particular, red blood cells) and to keep nerve cells functioning properly. It also helps prevent DNA changes that may lead to cancer. In the body, folic acid and naturally occurring folate are identical in their actions, but the bioavailability of folic acid is somewhat higher than that of folate.

Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes

Vitamin D's primary function is to help the body absorb calcium, though it may also protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Many people do not get enough from sunlight, its natural source, and should get the needed amount via a supplement.

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