Is A Multivitamin Right for You?

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The answer depends on the quality of your diet and your medical history.

Our bodies need a specific amount of vitamins to grow, develop and function normally.  In general, I recommend that people meet their nutritional needs through a healthy diet with real food.  This means fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, unprocessed grains and minimally processed meats.  How many of you answered “Yes” to all 5 food categories, most days of the week?  Exactly!  According to the United States Department of Health and Human Resources, poor diet choices create nutrient gaps of more than 40% for fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E in adults and children and Vitamin A and C in adults only.

Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry, and multivitamins account for almost half of all vitamin sales, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements. The Center for Disease Control reports that 40% of adults take a multi vitamin supplement regularly but do we need to?  In general, there are 4 categories of people who need to take extra vitamins.  People who:

  1. Are unable to or choose not to eat the correct types and amounts of foods
    • Strict or chronic dieters
    • Picky eaters
    • Vegetarians or vegans who don’t menu mix correctly
    • Older adults with poorly fitting dentures, difficulty breathing, easily fatigued or feelings of fullness
  2. Need more than the normal required amounts
    • Pregnancy
    • Breast feeding
  3. Have habits that increase needs
    • Smokers
    • Alcoholics
    • Endurance athletes
    • Figure skaters and hockey players
  4. Have medical conditions that increase needs
    • malabsorption disorders
    • osteoporosis

How to Choose a Multi-vitamin

  • Ask the store pharmacist to assist you and let them know of all other vitamin, minerals, herbals and medications you are taking.  They can help you save money by avoiding duplication and avoid drug-nutrient interactions. 
  • Check the label to make sure that the multivitamin provides 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and minerals in that supplement.  Some nutrients such as calcium and magnesium won’t be at 100% because they would make the pill to large to swallow.
  • Consider gender and age specific versions such as those for women only, for men only, children’s chewables and those created just for seniors.
  • Don’t over do it by exceeding the DV as fat soluble ones can build up and cause damage, while water soluble ones just wind up down the toilet.

Finally, store multivitamins safely, out of children’s reach.  Beyond these examples, research does not support that taking a daily multivitamin for those who already get the recommended amount of nutrients through a well balanced diet.  It will not reduce your risk for heart disease, prevent memory loss or help you live longer.  A vitamin is not the silver bullet for good health.  Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, adequate rest, managing your stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding nicotine will.

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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