Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeFinanceMultivitamins are the most commonly taken supplement. Here’s what they can (and...

Multivitamins are the most commonly taken supplement. Here’s what they can (and can’t) do for your health

If you’re trying to cover all your nutritional bases in one pill, you may think multivitamins are the obvious solution. About one-third of Americans rely on this versatile tablet to fill the nutritional gaps in their diets, but before you join the flock, it’s worth learning about everything multivitamins can and can’t do. 

Ahead, dietitians tell Fortune whether these multitasking supplements are worth their weight in nutritional benefits—or whether you’d be better off spending your dollars elsewhere. 

The benefits of taking multivitamins

Most multivitamins contain vitamins A, D, E, K, C, B, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, and chromium, explains Jamie Lee McIntyre, RD. That means that a multivitamin offers all the benefits associated with those nutrients. For example, vitamin C can help boost your immune system, vitamin B may improve brain function, and calcium may help your body maintain strong bones

Their nutritional breadth makes multivitamins a great “insurance policy” for your health and well-being. “While individual nutritional needs vary from person to person depending on age, sex, health status, and lifestyle, many multivitamin supplements provide nutrients that play crucial roles in various physiological processes to prevent deficiencies that would otherwise cause health problems,” says McIntyre.

Of course, multivitamins are also convenient. Rather than taking a myriad of pills in the morning, you can pop one (often large) tablet at breakfast and call it a day.

Where multivitamins fall short

While multivitamins are multifunctional, they’re not a panacea. “Multivitamins are not a replacement for a well-balanced diet,” says McIntyre. “Research shows that most nutrients are best absorbed from foods. Researchers believe this is due to synergistic effects that occur when nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are consumed, digested, and metabolized from food sources.”

Our bodies have evolved to collect nutrients from whole foods. While we can get them from vitamins, too, it’s not nearly as effective as just, well, eating. “Digestion and absorption starts when we actually look at food,” says sports dietitian Leron Sarig, RD, nutrition specialist manager at Exos. From there, we chew, swallow, and soak up the nutrients we’ve just consumed. 

Eating whole foods instead of vitamins also allows you to reap the other benefits of a given ingredient. For example, rather than getting pure vitamin C, you’re getting all the nutrients that come from eating, say, an avocado. “Especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables, the fiber that you get from them is from part of the fruit or vegetable that’s not necessarily getting powdered up and put in a multivitamin,” says Sarig. 

Although there’s no harm in taking multivitamins for most people, research on how these supplements affect our heart and brain health has been largely inconclusive. Meaning, there’s no clear evidence that taking these pills is an investment in your long-term health. 

You also want to make sure that you’re not overconsuming certain vitamins. “It is possible to consume unsafe levels of nutrients typically found in multivitamin supplements. To avoid this, choose a multivitamin that best fits your needs and pay attention to those that are for a specific sex (male or female) and a specific age group or condition (prenatal, 50+, etc.),” says McIntyre. “Be cautious not to combine supplements that provide the same nutrient, especially if they both provide 100%of more of the nutrient’s recommended daily value.”

How to know if multivitamins are a fit for your lifestyle

Multivitamin usage may be suitable for some lifestyles more than others. For example, those with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians or ketogenic diet followers, may find that they feel best when they add a multivitamin to their routines. 

“If you’re eliminating food groups, you’re probably going to need to make up for not getting them with some kind of supplementation,” explains Sarig. Vegans, for instance, may find that they feel better when they supplement with a multivitamin that includes B12—an important nutrient that primarily occurs in meat and dairy products.

Everyday and elite athletes can also benefit from a multivitamin. If you’re extremely active, it’s important to take every available step to keep your body fueled, including eating a balanced diet of whole foods and (if necessary) taking a multivitamin. 

Finally, those who don’t have access to a diverse array of fruits, veggies, fats, carbs, and proteins may benefit from a multivitamin. That said, these supplements often come with a hefty price tag that may bar most folks from adding them to their carts. 

How to choose a multivitamin at your local drugstore

Say it with us, readers: All multivitamins are not created equal. Supplements are not regulated for safety or effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you need to be your own advocate in the vitamin aisle. 

“The first step to take is to look for a multivitamin that’s third-party tested by a reputable third-party company,” Sarig says. “Make sure that the company went out of their way to ensure quality to the consumer.” McIntyre recommends specifically looking for labels with the USP Verified Mark, NSF International Certification, Certification, Informed-Choice Certification, and GMP Certification. Consumer Lab provides reviews and information about specific products you may spot on brand shelves, so use it as a resource. 

Last, but not least, try to select a multivitamin mix that fits your lifestyle. “There are different formulations for women, for prenatal [folks], for men, for elite athletes, and more,” says Sarig. “For athletes, many multivitamins will have higher levels of vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that we may lack as athletic individuals.” Once you find a supplement that’s third-party certified and made for your lifestyle, you’ve found the right product for you. 

When to skip the multivitamins

Generally speaking, you should always consult your doctor before adding any supplement to your routine. This conversation is especially important if you’re pregnant, living with a chronic condition, or on a current medication that could interact with your multivitamin in a dangerous way. 

“Overall, while multivitamins can be a convenient way to support overall health, they should be used judiciously and in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits,” says McIntyre. Keep that advice in your head next time you’re strolling the supplement aisle. 

Source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Translate »