Should you take a daily multivitamin?
Food & Fitness, General Health | October 14th | By J.S.Chang, RD
With so many vitamins and supplements to choose from the market, one that has many people taking it daily is a multivitamin. Everyday after breakfast and before leaving for work, you pop a multivitamin pill for an extra boost of energy that you will need for the day. So here comes the question, is it necessary for you to take a multivitamin?
First you will have to know what a multivitamin contains. A multivitamin typically contains minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium and vitamins such as vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E. But depending on the formula, each ingredient and dosage can vary.
Deficiency stemming from lack of vitamins is relatively rare in developed countries and more often found in underdeveloped countries where a variety of foods is a rare commodity. Long term malnutrition will eventually lead to other more chronic diseases.
Multivitamins have many types of vitamins and minerals in it, and in most cases they all provide more than 100% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake(RNI). So, we will be discussing whether there are benefits of taking extra nutrients from this pill and whether you should take it.
Groups that have risks of nutrient deficiency
For most adults, they will have no problem in getting adequate nutrients from diet alone. But not all have the opportunity or manage to eat a healthy diet. In fact, a study done in 2015 shows that adults only reach two thirds of the RNI for major micronutrients such as calcium and iron.
1. The elderly
There could be a couple reasons as to why the elderly are more at risk. They might already have a lower food appetite in the first place, and that will directly lead to malnutrition if not taken care of. It could be due to difficulty in eating or because of several medications that caused them to taste less than before. Whatever the reason is, the elderly have increased needs for extra nutrients supplementation.
For those in pregnancy, nutrients such as folic acid and iron are especially important. Folic acid is known to prevent spina bifida in foetus and should be taken well before conception. In fact, it is recommended that women who have plans to conceive take in 400 mcg of folic acid daily until the first trimester of pregnancy.
Iron is an important component of red blood cells and women who are pregnant have increased needs for iron as they will lose a fair amount of blood when delivering. That is why all prenatal vitamins have these nutrients that are important for pregnancies.
3. Certain chronic diseases
Some conditions might prevent them from absorbing or obtaining nutrients properly. For example, celiac diseases, kidney diseases or even diabetes. People who abuse alcohol or drugs also have a decreased absorption of nutrients due to the interaction between the vitamins and alcohol.
Coming back to the topic…
No matter what brand of multivitamins you choose, you may look for these ingredients inside which we have covered in our previous article.
Scenarios where you might need multivitamins:
1. You have a busy lifestyle and often skipped meals or eating out
2. You have a poor appetite and have been eating lesser
3. You have conditions that make you unable to absorb nutrients normally
4. You have increased need for nutrients
Scenarios where you might not need multivitamins:
1. You are capable of obtaining a balanced diet and just wanted something extra
2. You are having other deficiencies that need more of the individual nutrients itself
The bottom line
Multivitamins can be useful to those that are unable to meet their nutritional requirements through diet alone. If you are unsure whether you need to take a multivitamin or not, you may check out your health goals and concerns over this health assessment. In the meantime, you should aim to get a healthy and balanced diet as there are many benefits of getting your nutrient needs from whole food, and multivitamins are there to support you should you need it.
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