In the last week I have recommended a multi-vitamin to a couple of customers who replied “that is a waste of money”.
When I asked them what had brought them to that conclusion... neither could articulate why they had that opinion. “Something I read somewhere”. And I don’t blame them!
The truth about multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplementation is complex... to say the least!
So... should you take a multi-vitamin?
First, let’s address what vitamins and minerals ACTUAL do (whether consumed in foods or supplementation).
“The known biological functions of vitamins and nutritionally-essential minerals are to maintain normal cell function, metabolism, growth and development, through their roles as essential cofactors in hundreds of enzyme reactions and other biological processes”... they are NOT to prevent or treat chronic disease.
People who benefit the most from a multi vitamin are at risk populations. The elderly, low income, pregnant and people with certain diseases (celiac)... all these demographics have statistically high instances of malnourishment.
But at risk populations are not the only ones who can benefit from vitamin supplementation. Also those following a restrictive diet such as Keto, Paleo, Vegan, and Gluten free.
Many people who follow these diets are unaware of the nutrient deficiencies certain restrictive diets can cause. One of the ladies I was talking to last week told me she was vegan... I asked her if she was taking a multi vitamin and if she liked/was currently eating pumpkin seeds... her reply was no to both. Knowing that vegan diets typically lead to deficiencies in Zinc (pumpkin seeds), Calcium and B12 (which has to be supplemented)... I recommended a multi-vitamin to cover all these bases. I also recommended increase the amount of spinach she was eating for the iron content.
But what about the average person? Do they need a multivitamin?
Well... obesity is at 40% in America. That statistic is not because we are eating MORE nutrient rich foods. It is estimated that 80% of Americans do not eat the RDA of fruits and vegetables everyday. Fruits and veggies have many different phyto-chemicals and fiber which play a role in health outside of vitamin and mineral deficiency. So I am in no way saying, “just take a pill and your fine!”
If you are taking a multivitamin with the intentions of it increasing longevity... the current data does not seem to support that they help with cardiovascular diseases or other life threatening illnesses. There are certain studies that show that they MIGHT* help with certain cancers. If you are interested in research backed supplements that help with maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, look into vitamin K-2 MK7 and Ubiqinol!
“But I read a study that said...”
Population studies on multivitamins can be extremely conflicting/confusing. The main reason behind this... multivitamin quality/absorption/usefulness vary GREATLY. Also the American diet varies GREATLY from person to person.
In 2016 Americans spent 5.7 billion dollars on multivitamins... the majority coming from big box stores like Walmart. The majority of “value” multivitamins are what’s called high heat emulsified or covered in a wax coating. Both of these practices prolong shelf life and save $ during manufacturing. BUT they can also lead to incomplete disintegration after ingestion. “Bed pan bullets”. The vast majority of multivitamins taken in America are these Centrum types.
This makes most people who “take a multivitamin” unaware that what they are taking something that their body isn’t able to use or fully use. Also different forms of vitamins and minerals have different biological availabilities. For example Magnesium Oxide can have 30% or lower bioavailability while Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate can have 80% bioavailability.
With all the this information… It can seem like an impossible decision to make! But to sum things up…
-Have a diet lacking in nutrients (fruits and veggies)
-Want to perform better
-Are on a restrictive diet
It’d be beneficial to take a capsulated multi-vitamin!
Stipanuk MH, Caudill, MA (eds) Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition, 3rd Edition 2013; Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MI
Comparative Intestinal Absorption and Subsequent Metabolism of Metal Amino Acid Chelates and Inorganic Metal Salts. H. DeWayne Ashmead. Biological Trace Element Research. December 26, 1991, 306-319