Use of dietary supplements is common in the U.S. adult population. About 49% of adults used at least 1 dietary supplement between 2007 and 2010, and 32% reported using a multivitamin–multi-mineral supplement.
We’re bombarded with advice and information to take vitamins and various other supplements.
Some common questions asked about taking a multivitamin are...
- Do They Make You Healthier?
- Should I Take a Multivitamin?
- Is There Really Any Benefit To Taking Them?
Let's explore those questions to see if they can really benefit your health.
Do Multivitamins Make You Healthier
According to Harvard Medical School studies published in in Annals of Internal Medicine (Dec. 2014), found no benefit from multivitamins in protecting the brain or heart.
Harvard says that despite all the research on vitamins and health, we have only a handful of rigorous scientific studies on the benefits of what a "true" multivitamin should be - a pill that provides essential vitamins and minerals at the relatively low levels that the body normally requires.
Harvard also refers to a study called the Physicians' Health Study II were researchers looked at the effect of long-term multivitamin use in healthy men on various aspects of their health. And this is what they found:
- Cancer: Men were 8% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. The protective effect was greatest in men with a history of cancer
- Vision: Lower risk of developing cataracts
- Cardiovascular disease: No protection against heart attacks, strokes, or death from cardiovascular disease
- Brain: No protection against declining memory or mental skills
They also refer to a study or trail to Assess Chelation Therapy. The researchers tested the therapy for artery blockages also known as chelation, in people with a previous heart attack. The study also included a vitamin supplement. The researchers reported that the trial found no evidence of benefit from taking a multivitamin supplement.
Should I Take a Multivitamin
The position of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is not to recommend vitamins or other supplements for the general population. They state that the available evidence is insufficient to recommend the routine use of vitamins, in particular vitamins C, E, or folate supplements for the prevention of heart disease or stroke.
The AAFP does suggest though that supplements are necessary to assure adequate intake of folate in young women who wish to get pregnant and vitamins-D and B-12 in the elderly.
There also is no convincing evidence that taking supplements of vitamin-C prevents any disease except scurvy.
The also say that women should not take vitamin-A supplements during pregnancy or after menopause. And no one should take a high dose of beta carotene supplements.
A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may be safer than taking a vitamin supplement says the AAFP. No biologically active substance taken for a long term can be assumed to be free of risk.
Is There Really Any Benefit To Taking A Multivitamin Supplement
Johns Hopkins Medicine says research has shown that there is no proof of any benefit, but there is evidence of possible harm from high doses of certain vitamin supplements, such as vitamins A and E.
Larry Appel, M.D. director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research says pills are not a shortcut to better health and the prevention of chronic diseases, but rather eating a healthy nutrient rich diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat.
Your Best Recommendation On Taking A Multivitamin Supplement
Medical studies have shown that the majority of the population are deficient in vitamins D-3, B-12 and including the mineral magnesium.
The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition reports that vitamin-D deficiency is now recognized as a pandemic.
Deficiency of thew vitamin has shown to be associated with an increased risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and infectious diseases.
Other symptoms include muscle weakness, bone loss, increased risk of fractures and soft bones in children. The symptoms are subtle and can develop over years or decades. It is recommended to take at least 800-1000 IU of vitamin D-3 from cholecalciferol daily.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is very common and symptoms include a blood disorder, impaired brain function and elevated homocysteine levels.
The body is unable to produce vitamin B-12, but rather is a product of bacterial fermentation. Therefore, you must eat plant sources that contain the microbiol that produces it in your gut.
Also taking a B-12 supplement of at least 10 micrograms or a weekly B-12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms as recommended by the Vegan Society.
Magnesium performs over 300 function in the human body. About half of the US population or 48% consume less than the required daily amount of magnesium, which is 400 milligrams.
More common symptoms of deficiency include abnormal heart rhythm or heart palpitations, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue and migraine headaches.
Most individuals are chronically low in magnesium due to high levels of stress and a high-sugar diet, as sugar depletes magnesium levels.
Amy Myers MD explains that there are 6 key nutrient deficiencies linked to autoimmune diseases, and of those 6, vitamin D-3, B-12 and magnesium are included.
Appropriate consumption of nutrients for good health like vitamins and minerals are essential. And despite the uncertainty of vitamin supplementation health benefits, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans do suggest that nutrients should come primarily from foods and the same guidelines provide suggestions on how to consume a nutrient-rich diet.
Medical studies also have shown health benefits with no adverse side effects to supplementing with vitamin D-3, B-12 and magnesium.
See more recommendations here on our Nutritional Supplements page.