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Should I Be Taking A Multivitamin?

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Dietary Supplement Recommendations

Multivitamin preparations are the most common dietary supplement, taken by at least one-third of all US adults.  Should, or shouldn’t I take a multivitamin is a question I am asked frequently by patients.  The answer however, is not as simple as yes or no.

Ideally, we would get all the nutrients our body’s need through the foods we eat.  Unfortunately, it’s thought that even the most healthy eaters out there may be missing out on some vital nutrients, not for lack of trying, but simply because our foods may not contain the minerals and vitamins they once did.  Industrialized agriculture has contributed to the depletion of nutrients in our soil leaving our fruits and vegetables not as nutrient dense as they once were.   Convenient processed foods have left us feeling full, but do nothing for supporting the biochemical processes our body needs to maintain health.

Since we are all individuals, each of us has specific needs when it comes to supplementing nutrients.  For example: postmenopausal women and men often do not need iron in their multivitamin and in fact, it could be more harmful than good.  Other nutrients that could cause problems in some populations are fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K, especially at high doses.  Folic acid may be linked to breast cancer, vitamin E can increase bleeding time, and vitamin A can cause birth defects at high doses.

There are however, some basic guidelines we can all benefit from when it comes to choosing a multivitamin supplement.

1.  Check in with your primary care doctor and make sure they know exactly what you are taking.  Many supplements can interfere with medications so dosages may need to be adjusted.

2. Check vitamin bottles for the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP), NSF International (NSF), or (CL) seals. The USP and NSF are nonprofit groups that verify whether companies offer contamination-free products and use good manufacturing practices.  Or get your products through a practitioner who can order pharmaceutical grade products.  This way you don’t have to worry about contaminants or fillers that could cause more harm than good.

3.  Try to stay clear of synthetic, isolated, or mega doses of vitamins.  One way around that is to find a whole food supplement. Also, look at the amount per serving, the number of servings and any fillers that may be included.

A good multi could be considered “dietary insurance,” a small price to pay to be sure you get all the essential nutrients daily.  Even greater health benefits can be realized if you eat a healthy diet in addition to taking a multi.  Want to know what the recommended daily intake of a specific nutrient is?  Check out the Linus Pauling website for complete listing of recommended daily intakes as well as foods each specific nutrient is found.  Interested in talking to a doctor who specializes in nutrition?  Curious if there is something your lacking in your diet?  Dr. Schulz treats patient holistically combining nutrition and lifestyle management to help patients reach their health goals. Please call for details.

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