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Vitamins and Minerals - Questions and Answers

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Questions And Answers About Vitamins And Minerals

( people have questions about vitamins and minerals. The independent public health organization United States Pharmacopeia (USP) sets industry standards for dietary supplements and has developed the Dietary Supplement Verification Program (DSVP). Here are answers to common questions about vitamins and minerals.

Q. What are vitamins and minerals?

A. They're nutrients you need to stay healthy. They're in many foods you eat, but you can also take supplements to make sure you get the nutrients you need.


Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble:

1) Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fat tissues and used when needed. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble.

2) Water-soluble vitamins are not stored well in the body. B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins. Your body needs a fresh supply regularly.


Minerals are also necessary for vital body functions.

There are two groups:

1) Trace minerals are needed in small amounts. Chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc are trace minerals.

2) Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium are macrominerals.

Q. Why take supplements?

A. Supplements can be an inexpensive way to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, even if you get most of them from food.

Some people take supplements because they can't eat certain foods. For example, milk is a good calcium source, but some people can't drink it.

Q. How are vitamin and mineral dietary supplements regulated?

A. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates them as a food product.

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) created the Dietary Supplement Verification Program (DSVP) to help consumers be sure that what is on the label is what's in the bottle. Supplement makers earn the DSVP symbol by having their products tested by USP.

Q. What is the DSVP certification symbol?

A. This symbol lets you know USP has tested and checked ingredients and the manufacturing process. The supplement has passed important tests to help assure you that:

1. The product contains the ingredients listed on the label.

2. The product will dissolve so the ingredients will be absorbed into your body.

3. The product has been screened for harmful substances such as bacteria and pesticides.

4. It has been made in safe, sanitary, well-controlled conditions.

Q. Are all vitamin and mineral supplements with the DSVP mark the same quality?

A. USP does not rate vitamins and minerals or compare them with each other. It does look at each product it verifies to help ensure the ingredients on the label are actually in the product and meet its standards.

Q. How do I know a supplement meets USP's standards?

A. Look for the DSVP symbol or the letters USP on the front of the label.

Q. What do I need to know about supplements before I buy or take them?

A. USP uses detailed laboratory tests to check the quality of vitamin and mineral supplements. Take into account:

Most supplements are available as either tablets or capsules and may dissolve fairly quickly or quite slowly in your body. This affects how well your body can absorb them and why DSVP on the label is important.

Quantity or strength is important. Products with the DSVP mark contain the amount listed on the label. Before taking a supplement, ask a health professional about the supplements and the amount you need to take. Different people may need different amounts.

When buying supplements, check the expiration date on the bottle to make sure you will use all its contents before the date. A product past this date may no longer meet USP standards.

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© Health News 2004 All Rights Reserved.

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