Whether multivitamins and other dietary supplements are necessary for the general population is a source of debate. Supplements are still recommended for certain populations with specific conditions, such as pregnant women who should take folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, or children in developing countries whose diets do not provide enough vitamin A and iron. But recent studies have found there is not enough evidence to recommend multivitamin supplements to the average healthy American, and that in fact, taking too much of certain vitamins can cause harm.
These studies seem to have little effect on the global supplement industry, which is worth an estimated $128 billion, according to 2017 data from the Nutrition Business Journal, or on the American public. Fifty-two percent of respondents to the 2011-2012 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported using dietary supplements, unchanged from the 1999-2000 survey.
As a registered dietitian, I believe a nutritious diet is the best way to achieve a healthy foundation. Supplements (as the name suggests) can be used as a complement to help a person with certain deficiencies meet their nutrient needs. If you’re taking a supplement because of such a deficiency, you should try to take it in a way that could promote optimal absorption. Supplement timing can seem complicated, so let’s simplify when to take some of the most common dietary supplements and why.
When to take supplements
There is debate about whether taking your vitamins in the morning or at night is best. The theory goes that because you’re getting nutrients throughout the day from food, having your nutrition supplements at night helps your body get some nutrition as you sleep.