Multivitamins are in vogue. It looks like every other person in America is popping some sort of dietary supplement! So are you considering adding them to your diet too? If so, are sure you really need a multivitamin?

The Answer Depends on Who You Ask

From conflicting opinions and research results into the pros and cons of multivitamins, you’re bound to get different opinions from different people. It’s not just the general populace that has a difference of opinion on the uses and benefits of multivitamins, even the experts put forward conflicting point of views!

For example, David Colquhoun, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland says:

“The idea that a multivitamin is a kind of health insurance is a hypothesis – it doesn’t have the evidence to back it up. If you’re food insecure and living in a country like Somalia then multivitamin supplements can have a place but overall there’s no compelling evidence for a benefit to people in the affluent West,”

On the other hand Dr Vicki Kotsirilos, a Melbourne GP and author of A Guide to Evidence-based Integrative and Complementary Medicine is of the opinion that

“Fussy eaters who don’t eat from all food groups can become low in important nutrients like iron, zinc and calcium,” and in that case adding a multivitamin to your diet is a good idea. She goes on to say, “Multivitamins can also help teenagers who restrict their food intake or have an eating disorder – they can be low in nutrients including calcium which they need for good bone health at this age.”

The elderly too stand to benefit from multivitamins particularly those senior citizens that have difficulty chewing food or suffer from a poor appetite. In other cases, the use of several medications that may cause low levels of essential nutrients may also necessitate the use of multivitamins.

So, do you really need a multivitamin? The answer is; it depends!

Not A Quick Fix to a Poor Diet

If there’s one thing multivitamins are not meant to do it is to act as a quick fix for a poor diet. Unfortunately, most consumers that make use of multivitamins add them to their diet just for that very purpose; as a way to make up for a poor diet.

Experts call this the Band-Aid approach.  Basically, the notion that you’ll be equal to a person who eats well and exercises regularly just by popping some multivitamins.

As Dr. Carly Stewart, a known voice in the industry says:

“Taking multivitamins can cause people to pay less attention to their diets.”

That’s exactly what you don’t want to be doing just because you’ve added some multivitamins to your diet. In other more extreme cases, dependency on multivitamins can get you more vitamins and minerals than your body needs. As Dr. Carly Stewart notes, this has its own negative impacts.

“One of the biggest risks of taking multivitamins is that you may be ingesting too much of a particular vitamin, depending upon what your diet consists of. Some vitamins, if taken at a high level, will simply pass through the body without any negative effects. But both Vitamins A and D, which are fat soluble, build up in the body’s tissue if too much is taken. Taking too much Vitamin A can increase the risk of osteoporosis, and taking too much Vitamin D can damage both the kidneys and blood vessels.”

Diet First, Pills Later

While experts and consumers may have conflicting opinions on the uses and benefits of multivitamins, there’s one thing they all agree on. You need to focus on improving your diet first and then consider making use of multivitamins to cope up for what your body maybe lacking.

In cases where regulating the diet to include essential vitamins fails to help you meet your body’s nutritional requirements only then do you seriously need to consider taking multivitamins. Similarly, if you’re not a fan of dairy but your body still needs the calcium, you might want to opt for multivitamins.

Even in that case you’d want to consult your physician or a registered dietician before popping pills!

Which Vitamins do you need and how to get them?

The body needs a variety of minerals and vitamins to get its daily dose of required nutrients. Following are some of the most important ones that you need to ensure you’re getting in the required dose for overall health and well-being.

    1. Beta-carotene

Once ingested, this antioxidant is naturally converted in the body to Vitmain A and helps maintain a healthy functioning immune system, good vision and skin. It is naturally found in carrots, green peppers and sweet potatoes.

    2.  Calcium

Abundantly found in dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese our bodies rely on calcium to maintain healthy bones and prevent deterioration that may cause osteoporosis. Calcium supplements are amongst the more popular dietary supplements especially amongst individuals that are not big fans of dairy products and/or have adverse reactions. Having said that, individuals prone to developing kidney stones are recommended to avoid calcium supplements.

    3.  Folic Acid

Primarily prescribed to pregnant women as it helps prevent neural tube defects in babies, folic acid is also naturally found in dark green vegetables, citrus fruit juice, legumes and pasta. This is a type of B vitamin that is very commonly used as a supplement.

    4. Iron

Iron is a mineral that plays an important role in the proper functioning of red blood cells and helps prevent anemia. It is commonly found in liver and other organ meats and primarily should be sought from natural sources.

    5. Multivitmains

Available over the counter, multivitamins are generally considered as the fall back for poor diet. While multivitamins are not supposed to act as a replacement for a poor diet, they do carry immense benefits for people lacking essential nutrients.

    6. Potassium

Potassium is considered effective in evening out irregular heart rhythms, lower blood pressure and counter the effects of excess sodium. Best natural sources for potassium are oranges, bananas, raisins, milk and leafy greens. Supplements may come in handy if you’re taking medications that limit or deplete the amount of potassium in your body.

    7. Vitamin C

Found abundantly in various citrus fruits, green peppers, berries and broccoli it is essential to get your fill of Vitamin C from your diet. Vitamin C supplements are among the safest to take and are considered beneficial for reducing the duration of a cold and helping smokers and non-smokers exposed to too much smoke that may cause sniffling and coughing.

    8. Vitamin D

This important vitamin is essential for bone health as it helps the body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in old age and rickets in children. The main source of Vitamin D is the sun but with routines as they are these days, you may or may not be getting your quota of sunlight. In such cases, vitamin D supplements are a good idea. Similarly, patients already suffering from osteoporosis.

Bottom line:

Know which supplements your body needs and try and get them from natural sources. However, check with your doctor for particular deficiencies or supplements that you might need to take in order to counter the effects of any prevailing conditions that you may have.

So, do you really need a multivitamin? Of course you do but the important thing is, you should know what you need and how to get it!

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