There has long been a debate as to whether taking a daily multivitamin will improve your nutritional status and overall health. It was previously thought taking vitamins would not hurt, so the thought process was why not; but times have changed and we now know that there is such a thing as too much. Overdosing on nutrients does have the potential of being harmful. Many foods on our supermarket shelves are fortified with vitamins and minerals; while this may seem like a great idea to some, for others there is the potential to overdue it. Remember multivitamins do not require government (FDA) approval, so that means we have to trust the manufacturer.
So should I take one? Depends on who you are. If you are eating a balanced and varied diet that includes all of the food groups, you are likely nutrient sufficient and therefore may not need a supplement. If you are intentionally removing a nutrient from your diet, it is recommended to take a supplement. Here are a few examples of conditions where supplements can be explored:
• Pregnancy and Lactation
• Food Allergies or Intolerances
• Celiac Disease and other Malabsorptive Disorders
• Eating Disorders
If you have decided to supplement with a multivitamin, the next step is to decide which one. Here are some guidelines to follow when selecting the right vitamin for you:
• Avoid a supplement with more than 100% DV (Daily Value) for any nutrient
• Vitamin A can be toxic at large doses—you do not want more than 4000 IU (International Units)
• Men and postmenopausal women should have no more than 10mg of Iron; premenopausal women should have at least 18mg
• Do not rely solely on a multivitamin for Calcium; if your diet is deficient in this mineral than it is recommended to use a supplement
• No more than 400 mcg (micrograms) of Folic Acid
• Aim for at least 400 IU of Vitamin D; but keep your eye on the standards as the requirements will likely go up in the near future
Remember, the ideal way to meet your micronutrient requirements is from food. A vitamin is just a supplement, not a replacement. Supplements do not have the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in food. If you are not meeting your micronutrient needs, ask yourself why not and what you can do to fix it—a multivitamin may just need to be temporary.