Are Multivitamins Good For You? All You Need To Know

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A woman with a plate of broccoli and a lot of nutrition supplements

Multivitamins are widely known for their nutritional properties. However, taking a multivitamin everyday depends on various factors. Here’s a look at some of the factors for considering multivitamins for yourself.

Though we exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and have good sleep, many of us fall short of nutrients. To meet these deficiencies, we turn to multivitamins. But are multivitamins good for you? Let’s find the answer to it.

Do you know?
More than 85% of Americans take multivitamin pills as a substitute for not eating vegetables and fruits. A study [1]Council for Responsible Nutrition: Dietary Supplement Use Reaches All Time High reported that nearly 75% of adults in the US alone take at least one dietary supplement.

What is a multivitamin?

Multivitamins are those dietary supplements that contain most of the vitamins which may not be readily available in the diet.

We use them to compensate for our nutrient deficiencies. For many of us, they act as health boosters.

There are a variety of multivitamin combinations based on products and brands. Multiples, Multis, and Vitamins are the other names of them. They come in the form of capsules, pills, powders, liquid, and chewable gums.

What do multivitamins consist of?

There are about 15 minerals and 13 vitamins that are important for optimum health. Multivitamins often contain a combination of one or more of these vitamins and minerals. Sometimes they might include some fatty acids, amino acids and herb extracts too. Multivitamins that are available in the drug store usually come with vitamin ingredients like

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B — B12 and folic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

These produce hormones and enzymes that act as immunity boosters, and help in the proper functioning of nerves and body organs.

What are types of vitamins?

There are two kinds of vitamins namely fat soluble and water soluble. Let’s see what those are.

Fat Soluble

Fat-soluble vitamins belong to those groups of vitamins that get stored in the liver and fat tissues. These nutrients are used only when your body needs them.

They can stay in the body for a long time. These are taken by special carriers to specific parts of the body, where they are needed. Vitamins A, D, E, and K fall under fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat soluble vitamins can cause harm if they are stored in the body for too long. For example, excess Vitamin A can make your bones brittle which can lead to increased risk of fractures.

Water Soluble

Water-soluble vitamins belong to those groups of vitamins that get dissolved in water. These nutrients are not stored in your body. They flow along with your blood. Excess of these nutrients is regularly sent out of the body.

As these nutrients are soluble in water, they are to be replaced often. All kinds of Vitamin B (B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic) and Vitamin C fall under this category. They potentially do not cause harm. But are multivitamins effective? Let’s delve deeper.

What are the benefits of multivitamins?

The right amount of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) is required for proper body functioning. A balanced and healthy diet can provide adequate nutrients, but unfortunately we cannot not have it regularly. This is where we turn to multivitamins.

Long-term body health

The nutritional needs of our body increase with increasing age. During this time, our body’s ability to absorb nutrients depletes. Medicine consumption also adds to this damage. Opting for a multivitamin is a very popular solution to this.

Better cardio health

Some studies [2]PubMed: Multivitamin supplements are inversely associated with risk of myocardial infarction in men and women–Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program (SHEEP) show that regular consumption of a superior quality multivitamin can be attributed to better cardiovascular health. Every year, one-fourth of the deaths in the US is due to cardiovascular diseases. Nutrients like CoQ10, Niacin, Magnesium, B1, B2, B6, and K1 play a vital role in promoting cardio health.

Decreased risk of cancer

Daily multivitamin usage proved to significantly reduce the risk of some kinds of cancers, in people aged 50 and above.

Immunity booster

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, as it is an antioxidant. Vitamins D and E reduce the symptoms of allergy.

Better eye health

Vitamins like Niacin, Selenium, A, C, and E promote healthy eyes. Zeaxanthin and Lutein shield the eyes from harmful light. All these vitamins reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

What do multivitamins do?

Everyday, a human body produces or develops muscles, skin and bones. Essential nutrients and oxygen are carried to different parts of the body through the bloodstream. Our body also promotes coordination between different organs.

To perform all the above functions, the body requires raw material, which include vitamins, other dietary compounds and minerals. Acting together, these nutrients perform a number of roles like healing wounds, building bones and strengthening the immune system. They also repair cellular damage and turn food into energy for the body.

Let us know in detail more about the benefits of multivitamins to our body, based on research [3]Help Guide: Vitamins and Minerals.

Optimum health with increased energy

If your body does not receive adequate vitamins, performing simple tasks would be harder. This would result in a variety of short term or long term health issues and increased fatigue. Using a multivitamin will not only keep up your health but also will add to your energy levels.

Mental well-being

Multivitamins promote a positive mood and emotional well-being. Having multivitamins regularly ensures a good supply of nutrients to the brain. This phenomenon enhances brain functions and a good mood.

Anxiety and stress management

Your anxiety and stress levels come down considerably with multivitamins. Food is turned into energy when your body uses Vitamin B. This keeps up a relaxed nervous system by producing stress hormones.

Improved memory

Taking multivitamins daily shows a substantial impact on short-term memory functions. According to research [4]National Library of Medicine: Vitamin B12 and Cognitive Function, regular intake of Vitamin B12 helped in better retention of memory in older adults compared to those who do not take it.

Sustained muscle strength

Muscle ageing occurs because of free radicals. Regular intake of multivitamins keeps these free radicals in control resulting in sustained strength in body muscles.

Are multivitamins good for you?

You will not need a multivitamin if you consume a variety of food that includes fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish & lean meats, and low-fat dairy and follow a healthy lifestyle. A study [5]Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating suggests that you might require a multivitamin supplement if you

  • Are trying to get pregnant or have recently given birth
  • Your age is more than 50.
  • You have a low appetite.
  • Do not consume whole food sources.
  • Suffer medical conditions like food allergies, chronic diarrhoea, liver disease, pancreas issues, intestinal problems or any chronic diseases.
  • Have had a digestive tract surgery that affects the digestion process.

If you feel that you need a supplement intake, talk to your dietician or a doctor about the right dosage and the possible side effects. The only way of finding whether you need a particular supplement is by conducting a blood test.

Considerations when taking vitamin supplements

As mineral and vitamin supplements are easily available without a prescription, people assume that they are safe even if consumed in high doses.. Consumption of high dosage of these dietary supplements is actually dangerous.

The American Cancer Society says

  • Excess intake of Vitamin C supplements interferes with the body’s ability to absorb copper which is a necessary component for the human body. High amounts of this vitamin can also lead to stomach pain and cause diarrhoea.
  • High consumption of phosphorus supplements can inhibit calcium absorption that is vital for bone development.
  • Also, a high intake of Vitamins A, D, and K supplements can lead to body toxicity. A high intake of vitamin D for a longer period of time leads to hypercalcemia, which leads to bone weakness and damages the kidneys and heart.
  • Excess of Vitamin A supplement intake can cause nausea, dizziness, headache, and further complications like coma and sometimes death.

Intake of certain supplements can interfere with medications and make them less effective. Moreover, taking some supplements along with certain medications cause a lot of side effects.

If you are on Vitamin K supplement, taking blood thinners can interfere in the promotion of blood clotting. Similarly, taking antibiotics and probiotics, result in nullifying the effect of probiotics because antibiotics kill the probiotics.

All supplements do not carry related drug interaction information on them. Before starting a supplement intake while on medication, consult your doctor.

The shortfalls

Vitamins are nothing but micronutrients. The human body not only needs vitamins but also a certain amount of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for optimum health. A multivitamin pill or a tablet has small amounts of protein and starch but that is not enough for survival.

Some studies show that the use of multivitamin supplements is associated with lowering the risk of cancer and heart diseases. Other studies say that multivitamin supplements cannot be associated with lowering these risks, instead increasing the risk.

Another study revealed that a high dosage of multivitamin supplements did not have any beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.

Studies say that multivitamin supplements improve memory in older adults but according to ‘Physicians’ Health Study’ multivitamins do not have any effect on the brain in people over 65.

Take away

Multivitamins are certainly not the best solution for optimal health, a balanced diet is. Multivitamins, though offer certain health benefits, have a lot of inconsistencies. Certain multivitamins have been shown to benefit people with specific health conditions, for specific age groups under professional observance.

The amount of benefit or damage that a multivitamin can offer entirely differs from person to person based on various factors. Speak to a dietician before taking a multivitamin to check if you really need it.

All minerals and vitamins are equally important for maintaining good health. These usually work together in the body. A healthy and balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods (Vegetables, Fruits, grain, nuts, dairy, and protein) is the best source for getting vitamins and minerals that build strong health.

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