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Family Nutrition: What’s the deal with Multivitamins?

This is definitely one of my top ten questions from clients and frankly it’s a hard question because there isn’t a generic answer.  The internet and such stores as the Vitamin Shoppe and GNC continue to place a lot of focus on vitamins and minerals and some of my clients swear by their regimen.  I’ve even had some clients tell me they can tell a difference within hours of taking certain supplementations.   Since this is a subject I try to tame my responses too, I was very glad to see the article “Multivitamins, So Many Types, So Many Labels” by Melinda Beck in the Wall Street Journal published June 21, 2001. 

Did you know that the multivitamin is the number one dietary supplement producing $4.8 billion back in 2008 and that one third of American’s take multivitamins religiously?  As Melinda points out there are many different varieties of multivitamins yet there is no specific formulation that specifies what a multivitamin should look like.  This becomes confusing especially when looking at wide ranges of ages and co-morbidities.  A multivitamin can be a mixture of any vitamins and minerals and the only specification is that it has to list ingredients on the label.  What’s more, 10 of 38 multivitamins tested by ConsumerLab showed that ingredient listings didn’t jive with actual amounts in the bottle.   Price was also not a factor as some of the multivitamins that sell for ten cents a day performed better than vitamins that sell for fifty cents a day.

There have been many studies on the use of multivitamins.  Some cited in this column show associated benefits, some show insufficient evidence that multivitamins decrease death from cancer or cardiovascular disease. 

At the end of the day, there are definite populations that require an increased vitamin or mineral consumption.  Pregnant woman, infants, elderly, or specific chronic conditions require an increase in specific vitamins and minerals and if you are not able to get the recommended amount from food, this is when supplementation should occur.  As far as a generic multivitamin I’m not completely sold it is a necessity.  I  agree it should be recommended when an individual has poor eating habits or does not eat enough whole fresh foods, but for the most part if you are eating well rounded meals, my request will be to review labs and make individual recommendations from there. 

I’ll close with a comment from Dr. Coates, of the NIH, who says based on the best evidence, "If you are taking multivitamins, there is no reason to stop, and if you are not taking them, there is no reason to start. You are unlikely to harm yourself, whatever you're doing." Pretty compelling isn’t it? 



Always choose whole foods first as a source of vitamins and minerals

Comments

Spencer Kline said…
Do you yourself to take supplements? After doing some research recently I have stopped taking them.
I take supplements for Vitamin D, B12, and folate which I am deficient in. I really try to focus on eating a lot of fresh vitamins and minerals to obtain the rest of the minerals and vitamins I need,
Janu Rou said…
Useful information shared. I am very happy to read this article. Thanks for giving us nice info. Fantastic walk through. I appreciate this post.
silicea

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