Should I Take a Multivitamin?

American Diets

Multivitamin

Should I take a multivitamin? Theoretically, it is possible for healthy people to get all the nutrition they need from food, but according to studies sponsored by the U.S. government (HANES I and II, Ten State Nutrition Survey, USDA nationwide food consumption studies, etc.), most Americans do not come close to meeting all their nutritional needs through diet alone. Although nutrient deficiency diseases such as scurvy (vitamin C), beriberi (vitamin B1 – riboflavin) and rickets (vitamin D) are rare in the U.S. these days, many people do experience effects from improper nutrition such as feeling fatigued, having trouble concentrating, poor wound healing, dry skin, brittle hair and so on. In addition, it is now widely recognized that deficiencies in some nutrients, particularly the antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, can increase a person's risk for diseases like heart disease and cancer.

RDA

According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, a tremendous amount of research indicates that the optimal level for many nutrients may be much higher than the recommended dietary allowances (RDA), especially the antioxidant nutrients mentioned above.

The RDA for nutrients were originally developed in 1941 by the Food and Nutrition Research Council to reduce the rates of severe nutritional deficiency diseases such as scurvy, beriberi and rickets. Also, these guidelines were based on population groups and not individuals. One person's requirements may be much higher than another person. For instance, the Food and Nutrition Board acknowledges that people who smoke need at least twice as much vitamin C as people who do not smoke.

Factors to Consider

The following are some of the many things that can play a part in nutrient deficiencies:

  • not eating a well balanced diet
  • processed foods
  • fast food
  • junk food
  • improper cooking
  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • pollution
  • not getting enough sunlight
  • stress
  • health problems
  • medications

What Does Dr. Weil Say?

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, he takes supplements faithfully and encourages his patients to do so as well. He also mentions that it is best to get the nutrients your body needs from food, especially fruits and vegetables, but this may not be possible every day. He states "The main reason I take supplements is for insurance against gaps in my diet." He recommends that men and women take a comprehensive antioxidant and multivitamin as the basic foundation for nutritional insurance.

So if you are wondering, should I take a multivitamin, the answer is probably yes. A doctor or nutritionist can give you a more definitive answer, as well as recommending what doses are best for your needs if you do take one. If you are pregnant, are taking medications or have a medical condition, you should consult your doctor before taking a multivitamin.

References

Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)

Worldwide Health: https://www.worldwidehealth.com/health-article-Should-I-take-a-Multivitamin.html

Today Health: https://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/9402607/ns/today-today_health/

Photo by bennyweyara / Flickr

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