Are multivitamins really beneficial?

A significant amount of Americans regularly take a multivitamin.

According to News in Health, a newsletter of the National Institutes of Health, about half of adults and one-third of children in the US take one or more dietary supplements every day, or most days.

This data helps explain why the multivitamin market is booming. Americans spend more annually on dietary supplements than on over-the-counter drugs, with sales estimated to reach $49 billion in 2019, according to News in Health.

However, it is not clear whether all this spending is paying off.

Johns Hopkins Medicine has highlighted three studies that report insufficient benefits from taking multivitamins. An analysis of 450,000 participants found that multivitamins did not reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

So can you take multivitamins? Is it better to get nutrients from food?

Should I take multivitamins?

As the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has pointed out, not everyone has a healthy diet, and some people don’t get enough of the most important vitamins and minerals every day.

  • As an example: More than 90 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamins D and E from their diets, according to a 2011 study highlighted by Harvard.

Some restrictive diets limit access to certain nutrients. Elizabeth Ko, medical director of the UCLA Health Integrative Medicine Collaborative, told CNBC that vegan and vegetarian diets tend to be low in vitamin D, as well as iron and vitamin B12.

There just aren’t many plant sources of these nutrients, Ko told CNBC.

Along with nutritional deficiencies, some people may need to take multivitamins for certain conditions.

The Washington Post reported that those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take between 400 and 800 milligrams of folic acid per day, as directed by health professionals.

Similarly, those who underwent bariatric surgery should meet their calcium, copper, iron, and zinc recommendations, and supplements can provide at least some support toward that goal.

Should I eat better?

Harvard mentioned that if you already have a nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of healthy foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, you may not benefit from taking multivitamins.

Similarly, The Washington Post recommended focusing on a healthy diet, as it has been established in studies to reverse heart disease and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Raul Seballos, an internist, told the Cleveland Clinic: Ask yourself: Am I doing everything I can to optimize my overall health before taking a multivitamin and/or supplement?

He added that smart lifestyle choices are your best guarantee of future health, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

What multivitamins should I take?

According to The Washington Post, multivitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so each brand of multivitamin can vary in content. Some brands, for example, may have 70% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, while others may be as high as 200%.

In general, experts say you should choose a multivitamin geared toward your age and gender. For example, multivitamins labeled for younger women tend to have higher amounts of folic acid and iron, the latter of which can be lost during menstruation.

My best advice is to stick with trusted national brands. When it comes to quality, products that are third-party certified by groups like NSF International or the US Pharmacopeia Corporation (USP) can provide additional security, said Taylor Wallace, professor of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University. , in Forbes Health. .

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