Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Let’s be honest – scurvy and rickets probably sound more like sports then diseases to Americans today. Extreme vitamin deficiencies are rare. This leaves us wondering: Should you take a multivitamin daily or are you just wasting your money?

What Is In a Daily Multivitamin Anyway?

Let’s start by looking at exactly what you are getting when you spend your money on a daily Multivitamin. I’ll look at One-A-Day Women’s Formula as that is a fairly popular, reputable, and inexpensive brand:

Should you take a multivitamin
  • Vitamin A – important for muscle and eyesight. Too much has been associated with birth defects and risk of heart disease.
  • Vitamin B – there are multiple forms of Vitamin B in this (and all really) multivitamins. B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), B6, and B12 are present and serve many functions throughout the body. The most common deficiency would be Vitamin B12 deficiency leading to pernicious, or Vitamin B12 deficiency, anemia.
  • Vitamin C – believed to prevent colds and cancer. High doses put you at increased risk for kidney stones.
  • Vitamin D – Needed for bone health, this is a common deficiency in the US today. It is needed to assist in calcium absorption as well.
  • Vitamin E – believed to help with cancer prevention and memory. High doses have been shown to increase risk of bleeding and interaction with other vitamins.
  • Vitamin K – involved in clotting and bleeding reversal

What else is in a Multivitamin?

The rest of the ingredients in multivitamins are minerals. I’ll cover these in depth in next week’s post.

  • Folate is especially important for women of child-bearing ages as it is necessary for brain and spinal cord development for babies early in the pregnancy.
  • Calcium is important for bone strength
  • Iron is necessary to create hemoglobin cells and prevent anemia

Is a Multivitamin Worth It?

For years, physicians told patients to take a multivitamin for general health. There really were few specifics behind that recommendation. With the low cost and risk, we figured they didn’t hurt either. So, why not take them.

Today, we are looking at DIET OVER PILLS to prevent vitamin deficiencies. The vast majority of Americans who eat a balanced healthy diet with fruits and vegetables will NOT require any vitamin supplementation at all. And taking too many vitamins does potentially have risk. You will not get that in your diet.

Because of that, we are pairing down our recommendations for multivitamins to specific populations:

  1. Women of child-bearing ages who could become pregnant – SHOULD take a multivitamin that has FOLIC ACID of 400-800 mcg daily to help with neural tube development
  2. Those who practice a vegan diet – Consider supplementation with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D pending your diet limitations
  3. Individuals who have had gastric bypass surgery or have malabsorptive disease (such as Celiac or Crohn’s Disease) – Consider a multivitamin or testing for deficiencies
  4. Those who have limited sun exposure and/or do not drink dairy products with Vitamin D – Consider Vitamin D replacement with calcium
  5. Elderly at risk for falls – Consider Vitamin D replacement

Is It Harmful to Take Multivitamins?

Harmful side effects are unlikely as long as you stick to taking one multivitamin daily. The risks typically come from taking too much vitamin altogether – taking a vitamin on top of specific replacements. That is not necessary unless you have a specific disease and are directed to do so by your Doctor.

Simple Solution: The daily multivitamin is out for the majority of Americans. As long as you eat a balanced healthy diet, you shouldn’t need them. Is it harmful? Likely not. Is it necessary? Probably not either.

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