Our focus this week is on vitamins and supplements and when it may be appropriate for someone to use them.

You’ve likely seen or heard an ad for some type of vitamin or supplement recently.

“As a general category, it’s a lucrative business,” noted Dr. Joshua Greenhoe, with Sentara Internal Medicine Physicians.  “In the United States it’s approximately 30 billion dollars a year.”

Dr. Greenhoe, however, says it’s important to think before following the hype. “In this country, if someone is otherwise healthy, as a category, really none of them have shown to provide preventative benefits,” he said.

Instead, he notes that if you eat a balanced diet, you are getting what you need from your food. “If someone is having some meat, some fruit, some vegetable, some dairy, they are getting everything they really need.”

But, if patients do want to take something, typically, the best recommendation is a one-a-day vitamin. “You are getting a little bit of a lot of things and you’re not getting too much of any one thing with that type of vitamin,” said Dr. Greenhoe.

That being said, Dr. Greenhoe does note that it’s important to speak with your physician about your individual needs.  In some cases, specific vitamins or supplements could be necessary to combat a certain condition or lifestyle.

“People who have malabsorption syndrome, or people who have things like celiac disease or alcoholism or chronically ill, or becoming increasingly popular, vegan patients,” he stated.

For more information on this topic, call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a health question you’d like for us to answer, please email healthquestions@nbc29.com.