The never-ending vitamin debate: Do multivitamins work?


There is an endless amount of conflicting information about multivitamins.

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Photo ©

There is an endless amount of conflicting information about multivitamins. Some doctors say they are great for daily health; others say they are a waste of money and that you end up just excreting out what your body doesn’t need.

Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Our health is affected by a number of factors, including stress, lifestyle, diet, exercise, environment, genetics, and socioeconomics. Everyone’s health needs are different. Furthermore, different levels of education or economic status may hinder positive health outcomes. Those who work two jobs just to keep their finances afloat will have very different health determinants than those who have the means and access to chefs, trainers, supplements, and medical or homeopathic professionals. Alternately, those with the means may not have the education needed to address health issues. A newly diagnosed diabetic may struggle with food choices, for instance.

By understanding yourself, you can choose what to do to support your short- and long-term health. It is key to be aware of your body and its needs, where your diet may fall short in nutrients, or where you need more support. It’s best to discuss your health needs with your chosen health professional whenever possible.

Robert Jennison

Robert Jennison

Know Yourself, Find the Right Supplement

A multivitamin won’t replace a healthy diet or alleviate stress, but there is some benefit to targeted vitamin therapy. Supplementing diets and foods has a long history, such as using iodized salt to help prevent worldwide iodine deficiencies. Magnesium supplementation is also a growing topic today as global soil degradation robs today’s food sources of adequate magnesium. Lack of magnesium can hinder a person’s ability to recover from athletic training or sleep through the night.

It’s important to figure out what supplements your body needs, but it’s also important to understand that nutrient absorption varies from person to person. For instance, most people find that vitamin D absorbs better topically, but in some people, an oral pill or drops works better.

Finding your ideal supplements may require some experimentation to find what works for you. It is also a good idea to research which supplements to pair with each other as well as which ones to avoid taking together.

What Are Essential Vitamins?

Your body needs 13 essential vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12).

A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins stored in the body’s fatty tissues. As for the remaining nine vitamins, they are water-soluble and must be replenished regularly since they are excreted in the urine. Only vitamin B12 is stored in the liver as a water-soluble vitamin.

At right is a list of essential vitamins, their roles, and where to find them.

Different Diets Present Different Nutritional Challenges

Those on vegan and vegetarian diets often need to supplement with certain nutrients to maintain a balanced diet. B12 is the most important one as it’s challenging to get through plant-based sources. Low B12 levels can cause anemia, so it’s imperative that vegans and vegetarians source B12 from foods such as fortified plant milks, nutritional yeast, and plant yogurt, or use a daily supplement.

Multivitamins and Supplements Support Lifestyle Changes

Some people believe they can treat a symptom or problem by taking a multivitamin containing useful nutrients. However, a supplement is not a panacea.

Multivitamins are a preventative measure, ensuring that your body never lacks certain nutrients needed to support the best functioning of your body. Furthermore, if you’re experiencing an issue and take vitamins to correct the issue, it is likely that you’ll need to take this vitamin for life to reap the benefits and keep symptoms at bay.

For example, if you decide to switch your diet to a vegan one, you will need to supplement with B12. You can’t just take B12 for the first few weeks and be done with it. You must keep it up so you don’t end up with anemia.

The Bottom Line

It’s up to you and your doctor to decide whether or not you should take a multivitamin based on your unique health needs. No matter what you do, remember what vitamins can and can’t do. A vitamin cannot substitute a healthy, well-balanced diet. Balance is key, and vitamins can help ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need.

The bottom line? Pay attention to what your body is telling you about what it needs. Having trouble sleeping due to stress or tense muscles? Try taking a magnesium supplement before bed. Does your mood suffer in the winter? Try taking a daily dose of vitamin D from September through to the spring. Keeping track of where your body requires support may take a little trial and error. It doesn’t hurt to keep notes and present them to your health professional to figure out where you need help.

Multivitamins pose little risk, so many doctors recommend taking one daily. However, multivitamins have some limitations. Although multivitamins contain many nutrients, your body may not need them all. You should always supplement with specific nutrients if you have a nutrient deficiency. By rebalancing your body, you can achieve your health goals more effectively. And, as always, before supplementing, try to focus on eating a nutritious diet first.

About the Author

Robert Jennison has over 10 years of experience in the health and wellness space and is the founder of ActiveCare Nutrition. His involvement includes everything from product development and branding to digital strategy and quality assurance. ActiveCare Nutrition is an all-in-one, multifunctional supplement brand focusing on balanced health and nutrition, organically sourced ingredients, and functionality.

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