Has this topic been vexing you? I’ll admit, it’s made me a bit confused. For years my doc has asked if I take a multivitamin. I’ve gone through waves of taking them and not taking them. But when last month the results of multiple studies and trials were released, stating that multivitamins, once again, had no clear benefit to well nourished adults, I took pause.
I am a well nourished adult. I’m lucky enough to have the knowledge, and the income, to afford a diet full of fresh produce, meat, and dairy. And yet, I have two types of multivitamins in a kitchen cupboard, along with a slew of other supplements that range from CoQ10 to Glucosamine.
I’m also an adult lucky enough to be able to call three physicians and a Sports Nutrition expert friends. A few of these friends were over for a friendly game of poker on New Year’s Eve, and I decided to pick their brains a bit to get their take on the multivitamin conundrum. Should we be taking them? Is it dangerous? Is it a waste of money?
Let’s start with Dr. Nick, a radiologist. “It’s not going to hurt anything”. That was his response. Straight to the point.
Kelly, the Sports Nutritionist, had a bit more to say about it. First off, food is the best way to obtain any vitamins. But, she says that for people with diets that lack a range of healthy food, multivitamins should still be consumed. This point marries right in with the wording in this most recent study, which says that WELL NOURISHED adults don’t need a daily multi. Kelly also expressed concerns about too much vitamin A. On overabundance of this vitamin in our bodies can lead to some pretty harsh symptoms. Vitamin A is fairly abundant in healthy foods like leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark orange squash. If you consume liver on a regular basis you definitely don’t need extra vitamin A from a multi, as there is way more vitamin A than your body needs contained in liver.*
Dr. Jackie, a neurologist, tended to agree with Dr. Nick, but felt that a well nourished adult could skip the multi if they took the time to figure out what vitamins they might be lacking in and then supplementing with those vitamins. For instance, if you avoid the sun, constantly wear sunscreen, or it’s winter time, you might benefit from a Vitamin D supplement. Or, if your diet lacks in organic animals products, a K2 supplement might be in order.
My lunch salad with greens, chicken breast, pecans, apple, and goat cheese contained approximately 160% DV of vitamin A, 27% of vitamin C, 30% of iron, 22% of calcium, 185% of vitamin K, etc… **
So perhaps it’s time to scrutinize your diet, and figure out what vitamins you’re consuming through food on a regular basis. Do you eat a lot of plant based foods, along with meat and dairy? Do you drink a protein powder that contains vitamins? Do you take pre or post workout supplements that are heavy on the nutrient side? If so, that daily multi might be overkill, and your body is just pushing it through your system and out the back door as waste.
The multivitamin and supplement industry is huge, as in billions of dollars huge. Those multivitamins won’t go disappearing off store shelves anytime soon. So, what to do at this point? Are you on the fence about taking a multi, or have you stopped altogether but you’re just not sure it’s the right choice?
I’m right there with you. Perhaps it’s due to what those tasty little Flinstones vitamins beat into my head as a kid, but here’s my current method; I’m still taking a multivitamin, but I’ve cut my dose down. How? By taking vitamins that require multiple pills, gummy chews, or a full packet of powder to be consumed in order to get a full dose. You could also just start cutting your vitamins in half if you want to bring the full amounts down. But using vitamins like Multivites Gummy Chews, Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, & Nails, or vitamin powder packets like EcoDrink will allow you to dose out the amount you want to bring vitamin levels down. Plus, on days that the nutritious food fairy doesn’t visit you, you can take a full measure of vitamins if you like.
If you know your nutrition is lacking, you’ve found out you have nutritional deficits, you’re pregnant, or are of an age that additional nutrition is beneficial, consult your physician prior to messing with your vitamin regiment. And if you do choose to stop taking multivitamins, pay close attention to your body for any signs that you might actually need them, or at least something contained in them.
Life is a delicate dance my friends, but with good nutrition, a little intuition, and honesty with yourself, all should be happy and healthy.
* Click here for a top ten vitamin A containing food guide.