Are Multivitamins Good for You? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on December 17, 2014

Are Multivitamins Good for You?

Are Multivitamins Good for You?

Some people can benefit from a daily
multivitamin, but vitamins are never a
substitute for a healthy diet.

Is popping that multivitamin each morning really helping you? Studies have said yes and studies have said no. So how are you supposed to decide if the supplement is right for you?

Are Multivitamins Beneficial?

A major study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that supplementing well-nourished adults’ diets with vitamins had no clear benefit and that they could actually be harmful. But that doesn’t apply to everyone.

“The tough part is that, unfortunately, many Americans do not adhere to a well-balanced or well-nourished diet,” said Felecia Sumner, D.O., a Crozer-Keystone Health Network family medicine physician. “The individuals in these studies were not quite representative of the average American person. So for those individuals who are not adhering to the best kind of diet, multivitamins could provide somewhat of a safety net for the areas where we may be eating a bit poorly.”

Are Multivitamins Harmful?

“Multivitamins are unlikely to do harm,” she stated.

There are a few studies that found that smokers who only took beta carotene supplements could increase their risk of lung cancer, but Dr. Sumner said taking this vitamin alone is not common.

Although it’s unlikely your multivitamins can be harmful, there are many ingredients in each capsule that you should be aware of.

“You could be sensitive to one of the ingredients, potentially causing nausea or an upset stomach. There is also a potential for you to have an allergy to one of the ingredients, as many multivitamins contain substances like soy, corn or gluten,” Dr. Sumner explained.

If you do have an allergy to one of these ingredients, you likely won’t know it until you take the vitamin and experience symptoms.

Do You Need A Multivitamin Regimen?

Maybe, but maybe not.

“Vitamins are never a substitute for a healthy diet,” Dr. Sumner cautioned, noting however that a large number of Americans have been found to be deficient in vitamins A, D, C, calcium, folate, iron and B12 (thiamine).

“If you’re eating a diet that’s broad and rich in fruits and vegetables, you should have no concerns about vitamin deficiencies. In fact, getting these vitamins from their natural sources (as opposed to an extract) is truly the best and safest way to go,” she said.

Dark green leafy vegetables and nuts are high in folate. Dairy, meats and shellfish are rich in B12. Broccoli, citrus fruits and juices have high vitamin C content.

“A varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins can cover all of your bases,” Dr. Sumner said.

However, there are some people that can benefit from a multivitamin. According to Dr. Sumner, the only time taking a multivitamin would definitely be beneficial if your diet is restricted and you can’t have a diet full of fruits and vegetables, or if you need more vitamins than the average person – this includes pregnant and breastfeeding women.

“There are also a few exceptions, such as having an issue with malabsorption, such as celiac disease. These individuals may need extra vitamins because their bodies don’t take in all the nutrients from the foods we should eat,” Dr. Sumner said.

The best thing you can do for your wellness is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. A vitamin supplement will never be a substitute for healthy living. If you do decide you want to incorporate a supplement into your diet, talk to your doctor first.

“Occasionally, these vitamins can interact with your prescribed medicines, so please inform your doctor of any herb or supplement you are taking,” Dr. Sumner advised.

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