Q: Should you take vitamin supplements for energy if you're following a very strict reducing diet?

A: No. While it is perfectly acceptable to take a vitamin and mineral supplement while on a reducing diet to ensure that you are getting enough of these essential nutrients, we emphasize that the supplements you choose should contain no more than 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for each of the nutrients it provides. The idea that vitamins give you energy is untrue. Energy, which we speak of in everyday terms as calories, comes from carbohydrates, proteins, fats and alcohol. It almost goes without saying that in order for the body to burn those so-called energy nutrients, adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals must be present. In their absence deficiency symptoms may appear.

Fatigue is a symptom commonly associated with nutrient deficiencies. So it is natural that among the purveyors of nutrient supplements there are those who suggest (as directly as they can while remaining within the limits of the law) that vitamin and mineral supplements provide pep and energy. But the truth is that these preparations will eliminate fatigue only if the source of that fatigue is a nutrient deficiency.

Incidentally, while we support the use of a multivitamin and mineral supplement providing no more than 100 percent of the RDA for each nutrient as nutritional insurance, this does not supplant the importance of planning a diet rich in essential nutrients and devoid of empty calories, one that will foster the development of sound eating habits in the future.