Our bodies require many different minerals and vitamins to function properly. They also give us protection against a variety of ailments, including some cancers such as cervical and colon cancer, and heart disease.
We can obtain most of these required vitamins and minerals by eating the right foods and a wide variety of foods. However, most people take a multivitamin daily as a back-up plan – just to be extra sure they are getting all the minerals and vitamins required by the body.
Donald Novey, MD, who is an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge Illinois, says that a multivitamin is good for the trace elements. He adds that you will want a multivitamin for the little things at the bottom of the ingredients list. The ingredients at the top are familiar and the ones we won’t avoid if we are eating enriched foods. The ones at the bottom of the list are often missing from our diet. These include folic acid, chromium, zinc, selenium, manganese and iron.
Our needs change with age
Multivitamin supplements can be especially important during specific stages in our lives, according to Dr Novey. Women in childbearing years for example, would benefit from folic acid, which reduces the risk of certain birth defects. A pregnant woman requires a multivitamin, starting from the first trimester, to make sure the baby receives proper nutrition. Older and active women would benefit from more calcium, which aids in preventing bone loss and fractures. Vegetarians require extra iron, calcium, zinc and vitamins D and B12.
What time of day should you take a multivitamin? It doesn’t really matter, according to Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. However, he adds that some people find it useful to take a multivitamin at the same time every day. They are less likely to forget if it becomes part of their routine. Some people also feel that a multivitamin taken with food is less likely to cause stomach upset. Dr Bickston often recommends that people take a chewable multivitamin because they appear to be well tolerated, even in those who have serious digestive problems.
How to shop for the right multivitamin
Do you have to purchase brand name vitamins? According to Novey, you get what you pay for. He recommends shopping for multivitamins in natural food stores or health food stores. He adds that one should read the label and ensure the expiration date is a couple of months away. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is frequently written as “% DV” for percentage of daily value on the label. Be careful though, because the DVs on the label might not take into consideration the various requirements for age and gender as RDAs do.
Multivitamins can be beneficial, however, doctors caution not to be fooled by “mega” vitamins. The amount in a standard multivitamin is basically what you require for health benefits. Rarely do people require more than the RDA of any vitamin. Regarding vitamins, the rule of “too much of a good thing” can apply.
Ensuring good health
Obviously, the best way to get your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients to keep your body functioning properly and to ward of illnesses is to eat a variety of vegetables and fresh fruits, fish, whole grains, lean meats and poultry, and low-fat dairy products. However, taking a multivitamin every day is a great backup plan.