Multivitamin supplements are widely regarded as Plan B for your diet: a defence against those days when you really wanted to eat a salad at dinner, but the pastrami sandwich won out. Should you take them?
Are Multivitamins Worth taking?
Maybe Food supplements are very popular, but if you keep a varied and nutrient-rich diet, you probably don’t need them.
- Multivitamin supplements have long been touted as a modest investment with a great reward: the daily guarantee that you will get all the nutrients your body needs to continue running and ward off diseases.
- Choosing a supplement can be difficult, given the variety of products, but some experts question the very legitimacy of their use.
- If you’re healthy and eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, then “a multivitamin supplement is probably no use to you,” says nutritionist Diane F. Birt, PhD.
- Certainly, most people’s diet is not perfect. For example, a recent survey of U.S. diets found that most adults and children did not receive enough vitamin E, calcium, magnesium or potassium. The average adult also lacks vitamins A and C.
- Even if you don’t have a well-balanced diet, there is surprisingly little evidence that taking multivitamin supplements will do you good.
- Dr Birt was part of a panel appointed by the National Institutes of Health in the United States to study the scientific literature on the health benefits of multivitamin supplements. The panel concluded that there was currently no reason to recommend or discourage their use.
- Few studies have directly sought to determine whether taking these tablets reduces the risk of contracting any disease.
- Most studies of multivitamins have studied specific combinations of vitamins and minerals, and these offer evidence that supplements may help some people, although these studies are to be taken with tweezers.
- For example, a study of nearly 30,000 people from small villages in China found that supplements containing beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium reduced the risk of stomach cancer and the overall risk of dying from any form of cancer.
- Many of these people were undernourished, so the study’s findings are not applicable to everyone, especially in industrialized countries.
Choose a multivitamin supplement
If you decide to take a supplement, keep these three rules in mind.
- Do not take “high power” supplements. You won’t be healthier and they can expose you to dangerously high levels of certain nutrients, especially if your diet is already well balanced. As a general rule, do not take multivitamin and mineral supplements that provide more than 100% of the daily value, or VQ (which is often similar to Recommended Daily Intakes,AJR), and this for any nutrient, unless invited by a doctor. A recent study found that 10-15% of users of multivitamin supplements consumed too much vitamin A, iron and zinc.
- Do not take herbal supplements. There is too little evidence that a herb would have health benefits, as well as too little information about the appropriate dosage.
- Don’t worry about the shape. Multivitamins are available in traditional tablets as well as chewing tablets or liquid form. All work very well, so choose the formula that suits you the most.
Like all dietary supplements, multivitamins have their place but may not be for everyone. Consult a doctor or dietitian to see if you have any deficiencies in the crucial vitamins as a result of your diet, and plan a diet with multivitamin supplements accordingly.