Vitamins and Supplement Overview
The following information is an introduction to vitamins and supplements, in both the general population, and specifically to patients who have undergone bariatric surgery. For more detailed information regarding vitamins, you can check out What Are Bariatric Vitamins?
This vitamin information is a general overview and is not intended to replace your doctor’s specific instructions. Please contact your doctor or nutritionist for information specific to your dietary concerns or nutritional needs.
While many people take a multivitamin for general health, they may not understand how nutrients truly help their body function to its fullest potential. It is critical for your body to have the right amount of vitamins and minerals to function properly, assist in keeping you healthy, and may potentially assist with reaching weight loss goals. Vitamins and minerals help regulate your body’s systems, such as:
- Metabolic rate
- Brain activity
- Appetite and hunger
- Metabolism of fat and carbohydrates, including sugar
- Absorption of other nutrients
- Thyroid and adrenal gland function
- Storage of energy
- Assist with healing
The ideal way for the body to get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals is through food. However, this may not always be achievable after bariatric surgery (also called weight loss surgery). It is important to keep in mind that getting your vitamins and minerals from food also provides other health benefits, so it is still important to follow a healthy eating plan. Compared to 50 years ago, individuals do not currently achieve the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals due to eating highly processed foods, selecting poor food choices, and a decreasing quality of food. In addition, when individuals have extra fat mass certain nutrients are utilized differently in the body creating potential deficiencies.
After talking to their healthcare provider, certain individuals should consider taking a multivitamin. These individuals include:
- Those who do not get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone
- Those following a low-calorie diet (less than 1,200-1,500 calories per day)
- Those who have a poor appetite
- Those who avoid certain foods (such as strict vegetarians and vegans) (1).
In addition, certain medical conditions will require that patients take certain nutrients found in multivitamins:
- Women who might become pregnant need 400 mcg/d of folic acid from fortified foods and/or supplements
- Pregnant women need an iron supplement as recommended by their OBGYN
- Breastfed or partially breastfed infants should receive vitamin D (400 IU) every day
- Non-breastfed infants who drink less than 1 quart per day of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk should also receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily
- Postmenopausal women may require calcium and vitamin D to increase bone strength and reduce the risk of fractures
- Those over the age of 50 should achieve the recommended amount of vitamin B12 from fortified foods and/or supplements as they may not absorb enough B12 that is naturally found in foods (1).
The above two listings are for the general population and not specific to bariatric patients. However, it helps to showcase that many people need nutritional supplements and bariatric patients are not excluded from this list. In this article we will breakdown the specific recommendations for bariatric patients.
General Reasons for Nutrition Supplementation
Bariatric surgery often leads to weight loss in part due to people eating less and also due to possible malabsorption. In addition, there may potentially be changes in gut hormones depending upon the type of bariatric surgery that was performed. While weight loss is a wonderful result of bariatric surgery, another result is a potential change in nutrition status. Nutrient intake is altered following bariatric surgery for several reasons including 1) possible malabsorption of nutrients, 2) reduced total intake of food decreasing the intake of nutrients consumed, and 3) possible avoidance of certain foods (either due to tolerance issues or to optimize weight loss) reducing the intake of specific nutrients in those foods.