Is Your Lack Of Proper Nutrition Killing You?
Experts agree that obtaining your vitamins and minerals from whole foods is better than relying on a pill or powder, but a daily multivitamin is a good way to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy. True, a healthy diet should provide nearly all the nutrients you need. But many people don't eat the healthiest of diets. That's why a multivitamin can help fill in the gaps, and may have added health benefits.
For example: The folic acid in most multivitamins helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns, if women take it before they become pregnant; folic acid may also lower the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and breast cancer. Vitamin D from a multivitamin or single supplement can lower the risk of colon and possibly many other cancers, as well as other chronic diseases.
However - as with everything else in life, there can be too much of a good thing. It's important not to go overboard with vitamins. While a multivitamin and a Vitamin D supplement can help fill some of the gaps in a less than optimal diet, too much can be harmful.
Even generations after the first multivitamins were formulated, there is disagreement among health experts on their benefits. Some say that there's not enough proof that multivitamins boost health, so they don't recommend them.
This is a short-sighted point of view, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, which suggests that the potential health benefits of taking a standard daily multivitamin outweigh the potential risks for most people. They do caution, however, that individuals who take a multi every day should avoid heavily fortified foods such as certain cereals or nutrition bars with high amounts of folic acid or Vitamin A.
As with anything else you put into your body, it makes sense to educate yourself about multivitamins. Perhaps you're one of those smart folks who eat a healthy, balanced diet. Why should you consider a supplemental multivitamin?
Women with excessive menstrual bleeding may need additional iron and B vitamins. And women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more of certain nutrients, especially iron, folic acid and calcium.
Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? If so, you may not be getting adequate calcium, zinc and B vitamins through food.
Some elderly persons can't chew properly or may be losing their appetite for food, affecting their caloric and nutrient intake. And if you have a chronic health condition, are under stress, or are taking certain medications, you may be experiencing less than optimal digestion and nutrient absorption from food.
Lifestyle and environmental factors can impact your nutritional profile. Toxins in the environment can weaken immune defenses. Depleted soils yield crops with diminished nutritional quality. The Western diet with its emphasis on processed foods may be lacking in certain vital nutrients. Most of us are probably functioning with less-than-optimal Vitamin D levels, according to the Vitamin D Council and our own Centers for Disease Control.
If you decide to take a daily multivitamin, make sure it is of good quality or all you'll get out of it will be some very expensive urine! Here are some suggestions when shopping for a quality supplement:
- Subscribe to consumerlab.com and check out their reviews of vitamin supplements.
- Check the ingredient list very carefully. There should be no additives, fillers, sweeteners, artificial food coloring or flavoring. Low quality products often contain these types of ingredients. Many are also coated with shellac, or contain potentially hazardous chemicals like chlorine. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, avoid animal products such as gelatin.
Balanced formulation. A multivitamin should contain 100 percent DV of all of the B vitamins, and more than 100 percent of the antioxidants C and E. Trace minerals should also be included in your supplement. Check Vitamin D and calcium amounts. Recommendations for these two nutrients have been increased. If your current multi is low, consider switching.
Freshness is critical. The FDA does not require expiration dates on supplement bottles, so most companies don't include them. Calcium and some other nutrients can last for years, while others, like vitamins B and C, are unstable. If you cannot find an expiration date on the bottle, don't buy it.
- Research the company. Check out the website - the company should have plenty of information to share with consumers regarding the quality and source of ingredients, testing methods, third-party evaluations, quality control, etc. And don't hesitate to call the company with questions. If it's a quality operation, they should be happy to talk to you about their product.