The key difference between supplements and vitamins is that supplements are either naturally occurring or synthetic chemical substances that we can take as a complement to the diet, whereas vitamins are naturally-occurring micronutrients in food.
Supplements and vitamins are very important for the good health of the human body. Vitamins often occur naturally, but supplements are made to complete our nutritional needs.
What are Supplements?
Supplements or dietary supplements are different components such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, etc., that are made into capsules, gel, pills, powder, drink, or food synthetically. Multivitamins, herbal supplements, probiotics, and protein powders, weight loss supplements, etc., come under this category.
The major role of a supplement is helping to bridge the gap between an unusual dietary intake and nutrient needs. Supplements such as vitamins and minerals are the required dietary supplements in some situations, such as pregnancy. Moreover, there can be some individuals who are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin D, etc. This happens because their diet does not provide sufficient amounts of nutrients. Sometimes, these deficiencies can be due to malabsorption issues in our bodies.
Although there are numerous supplements claiming even unfounded health benefits, there are some important facts we need to consider when taking a supplement. For example, there can be incidents of contamination (coming from toxins, metals, etc.) during the manufacturing process, although good manufacturing practices are followed. Further, supplements can interfere with other medications, causing some medical concerns.
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic substances having either fat-soluble or water-soluble properties. The most common fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K, which can dissolve in fat, accumulating inside the body. There are some water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate, which can dissolve in water before they get absorbed into the body. Therefore, these vitamins are not accumulated in the body. Moreover, unused water-soluble vitamins can leave the body with urine.
There are various different functions of vitamins. For example, vitamin A can act as a regulator of cell growth and tissue growth. Moreover, vitamin D can provide us with functions similar to hormones to regulate mineral metabolism for bones. Similarly, vitamin B complexes play an important role as enzyme cofactors or as precursors. Furthermore, vitamin C and E can act as antioxidants.
When considering the sources of vitamins, our diet contains most of them, but sometimes we need to get the vitamins in other ways. E.g. microorganisms in the gut flora provide us with vitamin K and biotin. Some common food sources for vitamins include citrus fruits, red and green apples, potatoes, strawberries, green vegetables with leaves, etc.
What is the Difference Between Supplements and Vitamins?
Supplements are different components such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, etc. On the other hand, vitamins are organic substances having fat-soluble or water-soluble properties. The key difference between supplements and vitamins is that supplements are either naturally occurring or synthetic chemical substances that we can take as a complement to the diet, whereas vitamins are naturally-occurring micronutrients in food.
Summary – Supplements vs Vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are important components of our diet. Supplements are a solution to the reduced intake of vitamins and other nutrients. The key difference between supplements and vitamins is that supplements are either naturally occurring or synthetic chemical substances that we can take as a complement to the diet, whereas vitamins are naturally-occurring micronutrients in food.
1. “What Are Supplements?” UCSD Recreation, 4 Sept. 2020.
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