“Should I be taking a multivitamin?” is a question I get all the time. I always answer YES with one important point … you mustchoose a high-quality multivitamin to get benefits, otherwise you’re kind of wasting your time (and money). Even with a real food diet, it’s often hard (nearly impossible really) to get the nutrients we need from food alone. This happens for various reasons, read on as I share the most common indicators of nutrient deficiencies that I as a dietitian commonly see among my nutrition counseling clients.
Before I dive in, I want to clear up some recent misleading information in the media stating that multivitamins are useless. We at NutriKey and our sister company Nutritional Weight & Wellness completely disagree with that statement. I personally take a daily multivitamin and have for years, beyond that I routinely recommend them to my clients. Think of it as extra insurance to fill the nutritional gaps that most of us have. Our bodies rely on vitamins and minerals for every function, including: strengthening immune function, converting food into energy, making neurotransmitters, detoxifying, making hormones, and maintaining and repairing tissues and cell regeneration.
How We Become Nutrient Deficient
I mentioned nutritional gaps above, here are some common reasons our bodies become nutrient deficient.
Recommended nutrient intakes (often called percent daily value (%DV)), or recommended daily allowance (RDAs)) have been established as minimum guidelines for healthy individuals. These guidelines can help prevent severe nutrient deficiency but aren’t a reflection of optimal daily intake for prevention of disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “complete physical, mental, and social well-being - and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Based on that definition not many individuals are “healthy.”
With that in mind, one study found that those who took a multivitamin had an 8% lower risk of developing cancer. Another study of a group of healthy men found that those who took a multivitamin had less anxiety and perceived stress.
How to Choose a Quality Multivitamin
The key to getting benefit from your multivitamin is ensuring you’re buying a good quality one. Again, you get what you pay for in the world of supplements, especially with multivitamins. Let’s break this down into the components you need to look for in a multivitamin.
Third Party Testing:Look for the cGMP (good manufacturing practices) facility stamp, meaning which it’s been third party tested. This testing ensures that the supplement contains what the bottle claims it contains. Truly, there are manysupplements out there that don’t contain what the bottle claims. Scary!
Form of Nutrients:The form of nutrients is a huge indicator of quality. Often supplement companies use the cheapest form of nutrients, which are not bioavailable to your body – meaning your body can’t utilize them at all. Meaning you’ve wasted your money and time.
Dosage Requirements: Getting the optimal vitamins in minerals requires at least two capsules or tablets per day. If a multivitamin only recommends one capsule/tablet per day that’s another sign of poor quality.
Other Ingredients to Avoid and Which Are Safe:Some multivitamin brands contain fillers and other additives, which can also make them hard to absorb. As we read the ingredient list on our food, reading the ingredient list on our vitamins and supplements is just as critical.
Our Recommended Options
What to Look for In Children’s Multivitamins
It’s important for children to take multivitamins for the same reasons I listed above. However, you need to be even more aware of the ingredients in children’s multivitamins. Since these multivitamins are typically in a liquid or powder form, ingredients are added to make them palatable, which often includes some form of sweetener – some of which are okay, while others are not.
NOT SAFE SWEETENERS
Our Recommended Options
Gaziano JM, Sesso HD, Christen WG, Bubes V, Smith JP, MacFadyen J, Schvartz M, Manson JE, Glynn RJ, Buring JE (2012) Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men: the Physicians' Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial JAMA. 2012;():1-10. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.14641.
Carroll D, Ring C, Suter M, Willemsen G. (2000) The Effects of an Oral Multivitamin Combination with Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc on Psychological Wellbeing in Healthy Male Volunteers: a Double Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. Psychopharmacology. 2000; 150(2):220-5. doi: 10.1007/s002130000406
Graff et al. Magnesium: wide spread benefits. Albion Research Notes 1992; 1(2):1.
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