Should I take a daily multivitamin?

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There is no proven benefit to taking a multivitamin. A well-balanced diet rich in all the appropriate vitamins and minerals is your best bet to ensure that you receive all the appropriate nutrition. If you do choose to take a daily multivitamin, check with your family doctor first to ensure it is appropriate given your personal medication regimen and medical conditions.
To determine whether you should take multivitamins, talk to your doctor. Most family doctors, for example, can offer advice on a wide range of health topics, including nutrition. As your nutritional needs change throughout life, due to illness, pregnancy or other health issues, your family doctor may refer you to a dietitian. Often family doctors and dietitians can work together to make sure that you are meeting your nutritional needs.
Vitamins and minerals are naturally occurring substances needed to perform essential chemical activities throughout the body. The body can manufacture some, but most are acquired from food. Vitamin and mineral supplements can be also be taken as a supplement either individually or packaged as a multivitamin.

Vitamin supplements are now used by more than half of the adult population in the United States. The dosages of each vitamin will vary among multivitamin brands and are listed on the label.

If you eat a well-balanced diet and have no vitamin deficiencies, supplementation may not be necessary. But it is hard to know if you are getting enough of each required vitamin and mineral, especially if you eat poorly or have dietary restrictions or preferences like vegetarianism. And for those people, a multivitamin is a good idea.

Whether you take a multivitamin to give you a feeling of wellness or to offset a vitamin deficiency, you should first run it by your doctor and pharmacist, who can help you decide if a multivitamin is right for you. Some vitamins can interact with medicines you are taking, or are dangerous if you have certain medical conditions. Pregnant woman are encouraged to take a prenatal vitamin to protect their developing baby from some neurological deformities.

What to consider before taking a multivitamin:
  • Your diet
  • Deficiencies
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Medical conditions
  • Harms or risks (for example beta-carotene in smokers)
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
I think of a multi (half a multi in the morning and half at night) as an insurance policy for an inadequate diet. So asking about taking a multi is like asking should I get my 10,000 steps every day! Yes. A bottle of vitamins can’t fill the gaps in a diet that’s got more burgers, fries, and shakes than McDonalds on Friday night. But everyone has days when pizza’s more tempting than salad or a tight deadline finds you foraging in a vending machine. Besides, some vital nutrients like vitamin D3 are tough to get enough of without a supplement. That’s why we think of vitamin/supplement combos as an insurance policy against an imperfect diet. Even I take half of one twice every day.

Keep in mind that a good multi should meet the recommended daily intake for most vitamins and minerals. Check the supplement facts panel on the label to see if your multi has close to 100% of the daily value for all the nutrients in it. Also, split the multi in half and take half with breakfast and the other half with dinner. Splitting the dose and taking it with food aids absorption.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all women of childbearing age to take folic acid -- and a multivitamin is also a good way to do that -- because doing so lowers the risk of birth defects if they become pregnant. Some nutrition experts recommend that other adults take a multivitamin daily as a form of nutritional insurance. For example, the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that people older than 50 take them as a way to ensure adequate vitamin B12. But, other than for pregnancy, health benefits of multivitamin use are not well established. Whether or not you decide to take a multivitamin, be sure you are eating healthy foods!
RealAge
Administration
Popping a daily multivitamin/mineral is a smart way to help fill in what may be missing in your diet, not to mention what stress burns up. Taking a multi is also cheaper than buying a bunch of individual nutrients. Look for a brand that: has 100 percent of the daily value (DV) for most nutrients (however, know that some nutrients, calcium for instance, are too big to cram into a single pill); and that takes your age into account. For example, many menstruating women need extra iron; however, after menopause, they usually require less iron but more B12.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.
HealthCorps
Administration
The debate continues over whether or not most Americans need a daily vitamin. Experts do agree that most Americans have gaps in their diet and certainly need minimal levels of certain specific vitamins in the form of supplements. Certainly women considering pregnancy need adequate level of Folic acid. Women also need to be vigilant about consumption of calcium-rich foods and weight bearing exercise or they may need daily calcium supplements. Older adults may need to fill their vitamin B12 gap and about 15% of women don’t get enough iron. Children who are picky eaters and teens who diet may also need to supplement. So how do you decide if the vitamin you choose is a formulation that “has what is says it has,” in terms of specific vitamin and mineral levels and quality?
 
  • Consumerlab.com is a website that analyzes vitamins, so check their website for recommendations.
  • Look for a USP or NCI seal that confirms the presence of levels of vitamins as stated and a certain level of quality.
  • Don’t assume that vitamins marked “contains whole foods” are always better. Further scrutiny and comparison is warranted, or look for the seals mentioned above.
  • If it is “chewable, liquid or gummy-candy” in nature, it will typically have lower quantities of specific vitamins.
  • Don’t assume that more expensive vitamins are better.
  • A recent study suggested that older women taking supplements might be at risk of negative outcomes, even death, due to overconsumption of certain specific vitamins. Though some experts are not ready to advise abandoning a daily multivitamin by most healthy adults, the recommendation is to talk with a health professional to determine your exact supplement needs.
Taking a multivitamin on a daily basis is a great idea. The average person does not consume the nutrients that the body should receive. Everyone is different and has a different lifestyle. With raising a family, being in school, working, and enjoying free time it can become very difficult to receive the adequate amounts that are recommended. So taking a multivitamin would be perfect for those days that your body lacked those essential nutrients. Also, it is good idea to speak to your physician so that you can have proper screening to see what deficiencies your body has. For example, many people are deficient in Vitamin D.
Taking a multivitamin is something you should take everyday. If you look at how most people live their lives between work, family and social engagements they just don't get the proper nutrients everyday. A multivitamin is a good way to get some of those nutrients back into your body that you are lacking from your diet. You just don't want to starve your body for things it needs everyday. I always tell my clients a multivitamin is like brushing your teeth it is something you need to do everyday.
Taking a multivitamin is a good idea as most individuals fail to meet their daily requirements through intake alone. RDAs (recommended dietary allowance) and DRIs (dietary reference intake), which are government criteria for nutrient intakes, are based on a sedentary person getting their nutrient needs met from food. With exercise you have already surpassed the requirements for a sedentary person, so these intake recommendations do not apply to you.

Supplements are designed to do as the name implies-supplement the diet by providing additional nutrients. If you are lacking in a nutrient, you need to consider picking foods that provide that nutrient or take a supplement. A 1995 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association asked 43 dieticians to make menus that met their RDAs as well as the government’s dietary guidelines for Americans. Not one of the 43 dieticians was able to meet the RDA requirements with a 2400 calories diet! Plus, as an exerciser, your needs are higher.

If you look at statistics for food and calorie intake in the US, you will notice that caloric intake exceeds recommendations (that is why obesity continues to climb) yet most Americans fail miserably in meeting the nutrtional RDAs. Imagine you are on a weight loss plan and reducing food while increasing activity. How likely is it you would get everything from the diet you require in this scenario? Even if you chose your food wisely, it would be incredibly difficult. A multivitamin designed for an exerciser that does not use mega doses is probably a good idea to help bridge this gap.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.