Multivitamin intake is very common, more than half of Americans take some sort of multivitamin. Whether or not to take one, however, can be confusing. Some research suggests benefit, some suggest no benefit, and some suggest harm. So what’s real and what isn’t?
Vitamin Deficiencies in the U.S.
Before assessing the safety of a multivitamin it is important to realize that a supplement might not be necessary in the first place. While vitamin deficiencies are possible -like osteomalacia (vitamin D deficiency) and scurvy (vitamin C deficiency)- most Americans have a problem with overnutrition, not undernutrition.
The CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Second Nutrition Report found that less than 10% of American have a vitamin deficiency. Of these deficiencies, the majority were found to be in certain groups (determined by age, gender, race/ethnicity and so on), which could be a reflection of health disparities in the population rather than an overall risk.
Food VS Supplement
Truth be told, nothing will ever replace food. It is important to emphasize healthy foods as the main source of nutrients. Take a multivitamin only if there is a risk of deficiency. Any health professional (with no conflict of interest) will agree that a healthy diet comes before any supplement.
Individuals with healthy diets -rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and healthy protein- are unlikely to have a vitamin deficiency. Some professionals refer to a multivitamin as a form of “nutrient insurance,” especially for those who think they might be at risk. For the most part, however, people who are proactive enough to consider a multivitamin are more likely to have a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
What the Experts Say
Leading experts in nutrition and medicine agree that a multivitamin may not be necessary for many individuals- but it is “nutrient insurance.” There is no significant evidence to support that taking a multivitamin will reduce one’s risk for heart disease, cancer, or age-related mental decline. At least not yet.
Advice from the Harvard School of Public Health and Hopkins Medicine- states that certain supplements, like folic acid, are indeed beneficial to women of childbearing age. Both, however, agree that there is little to no benefit to taking a supplement in an otherwise healthy individual (1)(2).
Should I Take a Multivitamin?
Whether or not to take a multivitamin depends a lot on individual risk. For example, women of childbearing age and those planning a pregnancy will benefit from a supplement containing folic acid. Folic acid has been found to play an important role in cell division and fetal development (prevents neural tube defects). Vegan individuals may benefit from Vitamin B12 and older individuals from vitamin D.
Regardless of the category one might fall in, it is always good practice to consult a professional in nutritional science or medicine (a physician or dietitian) before supplementing. Nutrition counseling from a trained professional could easily save money that would be otherwise spent on unnecessary supplements.
Santa Cruz CORE prides itself on being at the forefront of nutritional and supplementation science. Our nutritionists are well versed in the newest innovations in diet and nutrition, from exercise recovery to smart cleanses. We are mindful of micro and macro nutrients and take pride in our in-house Synergistic Supplementation Counseling. Contact us today to learn more about supplementing your own nutritional needs.
- “Nutrition Insurance Policy: A Daily Multivitamin.” The Nutrition Source, 10 Oct. 2014, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/.
- “Healthy Body.” Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins.