In my practice, I have the pleasure of treating a wonderful group of patients. It seems like I witness an incredible health transformation everyday, and it is nice to feel like I’ve played a small role in it. Whether I’m talking to a patient who is very savvy about nutrition or a patient who is new to healthy eating, I always ask them the same question: have you been taking a multiple vitamin?
All too often, my patients are surprised by the question. They want to know why they should take a vitamin and mineral supplement if they are already eating well and getting the recommended servings of produce, grains and dairy on most days.
The answer is simple. No matter how much you strive to eat right, there will always be days when you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, or you don’t have the time to cook a healthy dinner. It happens to all of us. Not only can a daily supplement pick up the slack on hectic days, but it can provide additional benefits you may not be aware of.
Who Should Take a Multiple Vitamin?
A study by the USDA showed that approximately 50% of Americans have some degree of nutrient deficiency. That’s quite a figure! Only 46% of vitamin users take a multiple vitamin. One way to guard against nutrient deficiency without any guesswork is taking a multiple vitamin supplement everyday.
So, who actually needs a multiple vitamin?
Since none of us eat perfectly all the time, the answer is everyone. Here’s why vitamins and minerals are so critical to good health: the tissues in our bodies require molecules called enzymes and coenzymes to function normally. These enzymes are responsible for many of the physical processes performed by our bodies. Enzymes and coenzymes are made of protein plus a specific mineral and sometimes a vitamin. Different enzymes require different minerals. Therefore, the balanced nutrition in a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement can keep all the enzymes working correctly.
I recommend a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement to all my healthy patients, young and old, male and female. Research shows that people who regularly take a multiple experience less stress and anxiety, as well as an increase in energy and enhanced ability to focus. Studies have also suggested that certain nutrients help prevent degenerative diseases like cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease.
When it comes to women, a multiple is the best way to ensure adequate intake of folic acid, which significantly reduces the risk of congenital birth defects like spina bifida. This is important because folic acid is most beneficial when taken at least 3 months before a woman conceives.
Children also need multiples that are formulated for their specific needs (a smaller body means the recommended dose will be lower). One study showed improvement in the I.Q. of some children when they took a regular multiple. This is most likely caused by the correction of nutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of iron in the children.
What to Look For
I always point out to my patients that not all multiple vitamin and mineral supplements are created equal. You may be tempted by “one-a-day” formulas that only require you to swallow one pill every 24 hours. In most cases, it is impossible for beneficial amounts of various vitamins and minerals to be delivered in just one tablet.
Look for supplements labeled “high-potency” formulas, meaning that they contain nutrient levels with proven health benefits.
Make a habit of reading the labels when shopping for a multiple. One serving should contain at least 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins A, C, D, E and B complex (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid and biotin).
When it comes to minerals, you do not necessarily need 100% of the RDA to see benefits. A multiple should, however, contain some calcium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese and molybdenum.
Many patients ask me about iron. Many multiple vitamin formulas come in two varieties: with or without iron. You only need extra iron if you are at high risk of iron deficiency or currently suffer from this condition.
In order to reap all the benefits of a multiple vitamin, you will probably take anywhere from 2 to 6 pills over the course of the day to total one serving. It is best to take them with food in order to avoid upset stomach. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but once you develop a routine, it will be just as natural as brushing your teeth.
Also I suggest looking for a multi-vitamin that contains many of the necessary anti-oxidants that help rejuvenate cells. These antioxidants help protect your cells from free radical damage caused by many of the pollutants and toxins in our environment.
I hope you will continue to eat right and get a variety of nutrients through healthy meals. If you add a multiple vitamin to this routine, you’ll always have the peace of mind that your body is functioning at its highest potential.
Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut