This Vitamin's for You

Dr. Marie Savard has the scoop on what supplements are best for your body.

ByABC News via logo
June 15, 2009, 8:40 AM

June 16, 2009 — -- One-third of Americans take some kind of vitamin, but the information available about supplements can be contradictory and confusing. Medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard joined "GMA" to explain what men and women should be taking every day, what they should avoid, and why.

According to Savard, everyone, regardless of age or gender, should start their day with a multivitamin. There are many multivitamins to choose from, but Savard recommends taking a well-known brand such as Centrum or Theragram. She also advises that only one pill be taken per day because a bottle that instructs several doses per day indicates something is wrong.

After the multivitamin, the nutritional needs of men and women differ and certain vitamins can address the specific needs of both groups. Savard recommended several brands to meet the requirements of women, men, seniors and vegetarians.

For women, Savard suggests a tailored multivitamin that provides iron, which helps during menstruation, folic acid in case of pregnancy, calcium, Vitamin D, and a host of other vitamins and minerals that are no longer in our over-processed, over-farmed food supply.

But even when a multivitamin contains calcium, Savard suggests women get extra from an alternate source. Women need 1,000-1,200 mg of the bone-fortifying mineral each day and the average American diet only provides half that amount. Calcium carbonate brands like Tums and Viactiv are inexpensive and can be delicious when packaged with caramel chews, but Savard warns women tempted to overdose that too much calcium can lead to kidney stones.

Savard notes that American women need to increase their intake of Vitamin D, which allows calcium to be absorbed. Most experts think we should get up to 1,000 or even 2,000 IU daily, but a multivitamin only provides 400 IU and there is only 100 IU in a cup of fortified milk. Vitamin D doesn't come naturally in foods, although it can be provided by the sun. But sun block, winter months, aging skin and kidney disease all reduce the amount of Vitamin D produced.

Finally, according to Savard, women should take about two capsules of fish oil containing Omega 3s. They protect against inflammation, which is at the heart of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and stroke, Omega 3 fatty acids are also a major component of our brain and nervous tissue and can be important for developing fetuses.

Pregnant women need some specific supplements, including a prenatal vitamin that contains extra folic acid and iron.