Q: Do I have to take my vitamins every day? Can't I take them once a week?

A: A few vitamins and minerals can be taken once a week instead of every day. The body is able to store some vitamins, especially the "fat-soluble" ones like vitamin D, for weeks or even months. The same is true of iron, zinc and some B vitamins, including folic acid. This has been studied mostly in developing countries, where deficiencies are common and once-weekly administration of supplements is easier and cheaper.

In the United States, research shows that in people with very low blood levels of vitamin D, high once-weekly (or even monthly) doses—such as 8,000 to 50,000 IU of vitamin D a week for six to eight weeks—can raise blood levels as well as comparable doses of the vitamin every day. Doses at the high end of that range should be used only under a doctor's supervision.

Similarly, some studies have found that people with anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency can take very large oral doses of the vitamin once a week or once a month, under medical supervision, instead of B12 injections. And according to a 2009 Cochrane Collaboration review, once-weekly high-dose iron supplements (either alone or with folic acid) may be an option for pregnant women.

Despite the conventional "one-a-day" approach to multivitamin/mineral pills, taking a supplement supplying 100 percent of the Daily Values of multiple nutrients every few days "would be more than adequate" for most people, according to Dr. Sharon Fleming, Professor of Nutritional Science and Toxicology at UC Berkeley.

But keep in mind, if your diet is good and you don't have a known deficiency, you probably don't need to take any supplement, except perhaps calcium and vitamin D—plus folic acid if you are a woman of child-bearing age, and most likely vitamin B12 if you're a strict vegetarian.

Source: Adapted from an article originally published in The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (September 2011)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 12 Sep 2011

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015