The ABCs of Men and Vitamins

16 Feb 2015 | 09:33

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, many men are not getting enough nourishment. According to the USDA, men ages 31 to 50 need to eat 350 percent more dark green vegetables and 150 percent more fruit per day than they currently do in order to meet federal dietary guidelines. Ideally, more fruits and veggies are the answer, but in today's stop-and-go society, this is most likely not the reality. That's where vitamin supplements come in. But how do you know which vitamins to take and whether they are safe? Is there such a thing as too many vitamins? Though consulting a doctor is always your best bet, we recently spoke with some experts and compiled this list of tips on taking vitamins in the healthiest, most effective way. What Basic Vitamins Should Men Be Taking? Nutritionist Laura Cipullo recommended a basic daily multivitamin to help compensate for the vitamins and minerals that are not being obtained from a regular diet. "Start with a simple, straightforward vitamin that you would take with breakfast or with food to make sure you're meeting all of your micronutrient needs," she said. Cipullo, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator who maintains her private practice, Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services, in the Union Square area, said checking the label is a good idea to assure you are not taking in too many vitamins. "It does not need to be a mega dosage," she said. "It just needs to say that it has 100 percent of the daily requirements. Something like 5,000 percent is way too much." In addition to a multivitamin, Cipullo suggested omega-3 fatty acid supplements for men who consume little to no fish throughout the week. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. They may also assist in memory and brain performance. Cipullo said vitamin D supplements may also be a good idea, as many men are deficient in that area. If a man is allergic to or does not consume many dairy products, calcium supplements should also be taken. What Happens If Men Take Too Many Vitamins? There can certainly be too much of a good thing, including vitamins. "More isn't better," said Nicolette Pace, a registered, certified dietitian and nutritionist based in New York City. "Vitamins interact with metabolic processes and when there's too much in the body, it can cause problems." For example, an excess of vitamin A can cause damage to the liver, while too much of vitamin B6 can cause permanent neurological damage. Other side effects of too many vitamins can include constipation, confusion, weakness and loss of appetite. "It's definitely a word of caution," said Pace, who founded and operates the nutrition company NutriSource Inc. "You don't go for the super ultra-dose of vitamins and expect everything to work perfectly." Do Certain Vitamins Help with Specific Health Concerns? For men trying to lose weight, Pace suggested taking a balanced multivitamin. "Many nutrients are often knocked out of the diet when someone is trying to lose weight, so as a general rule, it's best to take a multivitamin while dieting," she said. In contrast, creatine, thiamine and zinc may help men who are looking to gain weight. Vitamins may also aid in treating infertility. Smoking, drinking alcohol and a poor diet can all influence infertility, and Pace recommended looking at those factors before turning to supplements. However, she noted that research shows vitamins C and E, as well as the mineral selenium, help increase fertility. "Studies of men taking these vitamin supplements showed improvement in the movement of the sperm and resulted in higher pregnancy rates," she said. What Should Men Look Out for on Labels? As with food, consumers should also read the list of ingredients on vitamin bottles. "You should always know what's in your vitamins," Cipullo said. "Maybe you're picking up a multivitamin and you see the company has added in an herb that there hasn't been much research on or you have an allergy to." Cipullo also noted that since many vitamins are coated, consumers should watch for ingredients they do not recognize. "Preferably it's just a list of the actual vitamins that are supposed to be in there, rather than a list of artificial colors and preservatives," she said. Bottom Line Solely relying on vitamin supplements is never a good idea. "Food should always come first," Cipullo said. However, supplements are a healthy way to make up for what your diet is lacking. It is also important to speak with a doctor about the vitamins you intend on taking and whether or not they will interact with any medication you are on.