Are Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Good for Your Teen?

When it comes to physical health, receiving the required daily dose of vitamins and minerals is crucial, especially for teens. In fact, vitamins also play an important part in maintaining good mental health as well. But what’s the best way for teens to receive their nutrients? Is a nutritious diet the only way, or can your teen stay healthy with vitamin pills and supplements?

What are Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a combination of a single or multiple nutrient (such as Omega-3, vitamin C or a multivitamin) that can be taken in capsule form to boost health as well as vitamin/mineral levels in the body. While these supplements may sound like a good addition to a teen’s diet, it’s important to understand the health benefits and risks.

Does My Teen Need to Take Supplements?

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According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the best way for your teen to get their daily nutrients and maintain optimal health is through a healthy diet. For instance, vitamin A helps the growth and development of cells as well as a healthy immune system. Teen boys require 900 mg a day while teen girls need 700 mg; they can consume a cup of spinach to receive their daily requirement. Vitamin B6 facilitates brain and nerve function; teens need 1.2–1.3 mg a day and can get a full dose by eating fortified bran cereal. In fact, teens who take more than the recommended dose of a vitamin likely won’t benefit from it—usually, extra doses of water-soluble vitamins will leave the body through urination.

However, some teens may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to eating healthy foods. Teens on vegetarian or vegan diets won’t receive all the nutrients their bodies require, such as calcium or vitamin B12. Teens who have been found to be deficient in a certain vitamin or those who are recovering from an illness may also benefit from vitamin or mineral supplements.

The Hidden Dangers of Supplements

While usually not fatal, too much of a certain vitamin can lead to some health risks. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, will simply be excreted from the body, but an excess amount of vitamin C may lead to kidney stones. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E, are more dangerous; they take longer for the body to eliminate, which means an extra dose can lead to a buildup of toxins and other health problems like headaches and joint pain. An overdose of certain minerals like iron can also create serious issues. It’s important to track how much nutrients your teen consumes on a regular basis in order to avoid harmful side effects.

Consult a Doctor Before Your Teen Uses Supplements

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If you want to know if your teen may benefit from taking a specific vitamin or mineral supplement, make an appointment with your family physician. Your doctor can perform tests to see if your teen has a vitamin deficiency or other health issue that requires them to take supplements. Ultimately, it’s best to seek a professional opinion for your teen’s health needs.

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