The answer to this question is maybe or maybe not. A balanced diet may not require you to take a multiple vitamin. However, there are instances when taking a nutritional supplement that includes small amounts of vitamins, minerals and trace elements may be helpful or beneficial to your well-being. This article discusses why a supplement may not be needed, or on the other hand why you should consider supplementing your diet. Problems can arise from indiscriminately taking a multiple vitamin. There may be contraindications to a prescription medication that you are taking. Read on to discover the answers to the multiple vitamin question.
What May be Included in a Multiple Vitamin?
There are many vitamin products on the market with different formulas. It’s necessary to review the labels of vitamins for content and dosage. Many of the various multiple vitamin manufacturers have put the following nutrients in their formularies. These may include:
- Vitamin A – Assists with eye care, cell metabolism and reproduction. Beta-carotene has been found superior to a synthetic product and is not toxic if over ingested. Check the label for the source of Vitamin A.
- Vitamin B – There is a complex of vitamins in this family. Included in this group are the following: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, B12 and biotin. These vitamins help with cell metabolism, amino acid absorption and tissue repair.
- Vitamin C – Has antioxidant qualities.
- Vitamin D – Has been documented to help with calcium absorption, blood pressure, insulin secretion, immunity, multiple sclerosis and auto immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Vitamin E – Functions as an antioxidant and helps protect cell membranes.
- Vitamin K – Helps build strong bones in the elderly and aids in blood clotting. This is a contraindication if you are taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin.
- Calcium – Helps with nerve conduction, bones, teeth and contraction of muscles.
- Magnesium – Aids in insulin production, assists with the absorption of B complex vitamins and accelerates bone growth and repair as well as fatty acid formation.
- Manganese – Assists in bone and cartilage repair as well as glucose metabolism.
- Iodine – Necessary for the thyroid gland hormones.
- Zinc – This element is very important in boosting immunity and helping repair wounds and is the component of over 300 enzymes.
This is not a complete list of all ingredients; there is a wide variance in formulas. A person cannot neglect a good diet and believe that taking one multi-vitamin and mineral tablet will provide enough nutrients to satisfy your body’s needs. A healthy eating pattern can provide the body with its nutrients, but taking a multivitamin provides us with the assurance that we are getting an adequate amount of certain vitamins, minerals and trace elements the body needs for optimum functioning.
Natural Versus Synthetic
There is an age old argument as to whether laboratory concocted formulas are as good as or better than “Mother Nature”. This has been very difficult to determine; however, research does show that both are absorbed in the system somewhat equally in the upper GI tract. A question that always arises is “can the laboratory produce all the components found in the food product“? The argument continues, but common sense would indicate that the laboratory can’t dot every “i” and cross every “t” that’s in a natural formulary.
It has been reported that about half of the American population takes vitamins. Not all multiple vitamins are created equal. Learn to read the labels on the products. Cheap multiple vitamins may have the same components of a more expensive vitamin, but dosage and source of the product must be understood to maximize and help with your decision on which formula would be best for you. What should you look for on the label? Here are some suggestions:
- Expiration Date – The recommended date the vitamin should be used by.
- Recommended Daily Allowance Percentage – The U.S. Government has made a recommendation of daily allowance (RDA) or the minimum nutrient amounts for our body. A percentage amount of each product will be on the label and the RDA of what is recommended for adults.
- Where Product Was Produced – Reliable manufacturing locations are important but don’t always guarantee a good product.
- Product Testing – There are two facilities in the United States that vitamin manufacturers voluntarily submit their products to for testing. The USP or NSF gives the product their seal of approval. It means that the multiple vitamin’s formulas are what they claim to be and have been confirmed by one of these organizations as to the potency and substance.
- Warning – Not all products will place product testing on the label. Adult dosages of vitamins should not be given to children. Always read the directions for age recommendations to make sure there is not a risk for the older child or young adult to take the multiple vitamin.
Who Should Take a Multiple Vitamin?
There probably isn’t a definitive answer for this question, but there are some individuals and age groups that may benefit from dietary supplementation. Those that may benefit include:
- Elderly – Absorption of nutrients may not be as efficient in the elderly as it is in a younger person. Diets and food consumed may be less nutritious. Chewing and breading down food may not be as easy for some with dentures.
- Medicated Patients – Some medications leach nutrients from the body. Caution must be taken as there can be some contraindications to the medications being taken and the multiple vitamin. Talk to your primary care physician or other clinicians prior to taking any vitamins.
- Dieting Individuals – Depending on the type of diet, the reduction in calories may reduce the amount of food that is needed to provide the necessary nutrition.
Do you need to take a multiple vitamin? I would liken it to having insurance on your home, car or life. It’s adding to your “assurance” of getting the proper nutrition for healthy living. Taking multiple vitamins is not a substitute for a good healthy diet.