Vitamin Supplements - Who Needs 'em?

by Holistic_Health

Nutritional supplements are more popular than ever, and most people take at least one. But are they doing any good?

Do You Need a Daily Multivitamin?

In 1746 James Lind fed citrus fruits to British sailors in the hope it would cure scurvy. It worked, and ever since we have been infatuated with the idea that vitamins can cure disease.

Today many people take vitamin and mineral supplements as part of a strategy to stay healthy, but others feel that the vitamins in food are sufficient. They believe you don’t need to take additional supplements because the nutritional supplement industry is mostly hype – infomercials to get you to buy their products.

To make matters worse, there is a lot of conflicting advice about what is true and what is advertising. A large part of the problem is that each year researchers find out more about nutrition. Halfway through a study, preliminary findings are released. The press focuses on the positive (or negative) aspects, and the preliminary information is reported with much hype in the consumer market.





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What's the Best Multivitamin?

As an example, let’s look at resveratrol – the antioxidant found naturally in grapes and wine. Claims run the gamut from it can slow down the aging process to speed up healing. In the lab, resveratrol is tested under controlled conditions. It has to be since it oxidizes quickly. In other words, it starts to rust as soon as it hits the air.

Do you think the average consumer takes the supplement under lab conditions? Do you think that might have something to do with the results you see at home versus what scientists see in the lab?

This is not to suggest vitamins and other nutritional supplements are not beneficial. There is a mountain of evidence to prove their benefit. Doctors routinely prescribe prenatal vitamins for pregnant women, people with osteoporosis, and a host of other health conditions.

Take the case of chronic eye disease. A report from the National Institutes of Health supports using the antioxidant vitamins C and E, along with beta carotene and zinc to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in those at high risk.

Despite this, there is no definitive scientific report that recommends we should all take a multivitamin.  It would be nice to have clear answers, but it’s difficult to follow an individual person around and study their eating habits. Add to the mix an individual’s genetic history and things get even more complicated. There are many variables.

It’s always preferable to get your nutrition from food whenever possible. There is a synergy between foods that happens in the gut that vitamins can’t replicate. For instance, have some orange juice with your oatmeal. The phenols in oatmeal and the Vitamin C in orange juice work together to make LDL cholesterol less likely to stick to the walls of arteries.

However, for those of us who know we’re not eating as we should, supplements are a life raft in a sea of microwaved meals and fast food. Judging by the sales of nutritional supplements many people prefer to err on the side of vitamin supplements.

In 2010 the mammoth $28.1 billion supplement industry posted 4.4% growth in consumer sales. Although not a banner year, the figures show the depth and breadth of our love affair with vitamin supplements.

Can You Trust Multivitamin Reviews?

If you want to add a dietary supplement to your diet, there are things you should do as a savvy consumer to protect your health. Don’t be swayed by 10 second sound bites on the news. Do your background research on authoritative web sites like MedlinePlus or National Institutes of Health, and ask yourself the following --

  • What’s the benefit to me personally?
  • Are there any safety risks?
  • What’s the evidence for or against the particular product?
  • What’s the proper dose to take?
  • How long and when should you take it?

Rest assured that if you eat a poor diet, you will eventually pay for it with poor health, but on the flip side there is no guarantee that taking supplements will endow you with good health. Let nutritional supplements be just that – supplements to a good diet.





Updated: 08/03/2016, Holistic_Health
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What nutritional supplements do you take?

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Holistic_Health on 08/19/2013

@marciag I take extra vitamin D too - guess I don't get enough sunlight. Thanks for commenting!

marciag on 08/19/2013

I actually do and take them regularly - I'm B12 and D3 deficient so I have to take them every day, along with magnesium and Selenium for my hypothyroidism. These are things that simply have to be taken no matter what as I'm hypo. Who would have thought just a few years back...

The problem with proper nutrition is that our soil is very mineral deficient pretty much all over the world, and unless we really get organic food, simply buying food from the supermarket will not cut it for giving us all the vitamins and minerals we need, no matter how we do it. And sadly most of us can't find organic products (plus they're darn expensive too) every single day, especially when you have to cook for 4 or more, etc...

Tolovaj on 05/16/2012

I occasionally take multivitamin, especially during winter and spring. Because I am pretty physically active I also take additional dose of potassium once in a while. I think multivitamins can be of great help as an addition to varied diet, but not instead of real food.

Holistic_Health on 02/28/2012

@Pinkchic18 I take a New Chapter prenatal -- although I'm not pregnant. . . writing as fast as I can . . .

Pinkchic18 on 02/28/2012

Very interesting! I take a women's oneaday multi-vitamin everyday. Mostly because otherwise it seems I don't get enough calcium or iron in my regular diet. Can't wait to see more articles from you!

Colon Hydrotherapy on 02/10/2012

Seems like new discoveries about nutrition are common today. Vitamins come in handy if you want to be healthy but are watching calorie intake.

Holistic_Health on 02/06/2012

@katiem2 You're more than welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

katiem2 on 02/06/2012

My doctor was just telling me I should think about a taking a good multi-vitamin. Thanks for the review and guidance. :)

Holistic_Health on 02/05/2012

@Dustytoes Many people are vitamin D deficient including myself. All those hours spent indoors writing articles :)

dustytoes on 02/05/2012

I've often thought that a multivitamin has too little of everything to do much good so I take individual vitamins when I think they are needed. I take vitamin D now that it is winter and I get relatively no sun on my bod.

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