Multi-vitamins first hit the market in the 1940s and quickly gained popularity as a convenient way to get all the daily vitamins and minerals you need in a tiny pill. According to Tufts University, at least one-third of Americans take multi-vitamins for “nutritional insurance,” making them the most popular and profitable supplements in the country.
The scientific evidence out there about multi-vitamin use is fairly mixed, which is a major source of public confusion. So now comes two million-dollar questions: should you take a multi-vitamin, and if so, which one should you choose?
The Case FOR Multi-vitamins
Although pills can’t take the place of healthy eating habits, they can bridge nutritional gaps in your diet. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that multi-vitamins that contain vitamin D and folic acid can be beneficial for many people. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans point out that many adults are deficient in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Most physicians agree that there is no harm in taking a daily multi-vitamin, so even if it’s not doing anything for your body, it won’t hurt you either. Multi-vitamins are a small part of living a healthy lifestyle, but a worthwhile part if you’re concerned about being deficient in essential nutrients because of your diet.
The Case AGAINST Multi-vitamins
In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that there is still “not enough evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms” of taking multi-vitamins. Recent research has indicated that multi-vitamins offer no benefit to the general population; however, they may help certain individuals. Unfortunately, these are the types of poverty-stricken and malnourished individuals that often do not have access to or education about the benefits of multi-vitamins.
Additionally, some people who take multi-vitamins use them as a way to justify unhealthy eating habits with high amounts of trans fats and saturated fats. It’s important to not fool yourself into thinking that a multi-vitamin will make up for junk food, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy weight.
Many people don’t realize it, but too much of certain vitamins can actually be harmful to your health. Some nutrients that could be harmful in extremely high doses include vitamin E, zinc, selenium and copper. It’s important to stick to the recommended dose of your multivitamin and not load up on them just because you’ve missed a meal or fallen off the “healthy eating bandwagon.”
Choosing the Right Multi-vitamin for You
It’s important to remember that there is no quick fix to nutrition, but ultimately, the decision to take a multi-vitamin or not is one you must make for yourself. All those multi-vitamin bottles on the pharmacy shelf may look similar, but their formulas actually vary greatly.
Read the ingredients and ask your doctor for professional advice before starting to take anything new. Supplements are regulated more like special foods, not drugs, which means that the FDA doesn’t assess the effectiveness of multi-vitamins in the body. However, the FDA can restrict or ban these types of products if they’re found to be unsafe once on the market. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to stay away from “mega” and “super” multi-vitamins with lots of hype, and stick to a daily one made by a reliable brand you trust.
Alternatively, rather than taking a multi-vitamin, which likely contains vitamins and minerals that you are already getting enough of from food, you can take specific supplements to address your individual deficiencies. If you don’t get enough of certain types of fruits or vegetables in your diet because of access, convenience, or taste, consider taking a more targeted approach to supplementation. For example, we offer all-natural and chemical free capsule supplements for broccoli, artichoke, carrots, pomegranate, lemon, and other healthy foods.