by Kimberly Allen, RN
Tens of millions of adults in the US take multivitamins everyday. Then there are just as many, if not more, children also taking multivitamins everyday. According to most experts, Americans spend over $10 Billion every year on vitamins and/or nutritional supplements.
So why do so many Americans spend so much money on multivitamins and other nutritional supplements? Each person has their own reason, but many take them because they believe that vitamins and supplements improve their health and prevent certain viruses like those that cause colds and the flu as well as chronic diseases and some cancers. Others take vitamins and/or supplements because they just can’t bring themselves to eat a healthy diet so they figure that as long as they take that multivitamin everyday they don’t have to eat any fruits or vegetables.
You know who you are. You’re the ones that believe the four basic food groups are “fried, buttered, sweet and salty”. Your bottle of multivitamins says that you will get all your daily requirements of vitamins and minerals in one pill – so whats the big deal, right? Unfortunately that’s not quite how it works, though I must admit it would be nice if it did.
It’s been over 60 years since the first multivitamin was introduced to Americans and today it has become a part of the ritual of everyday life for tens of millions adults and children. Most of the multivitamins on the market today are composed of 10 vitamins and 10 minerals which is approximately the amount recommended for each person per day. While multivitamins can be a good way to supplement your daily diet when you don’t have time to shop around for fresh fruit and vegetables or whole grains, they are not meant to replace a healthy well balanced diet. In fact, if you are a person that is conscious of your health and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and are taking a multivitamin “just in case” you could be doing more harm than good. Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.
One of the biggest concerns with vitamin and mineral supplements is that they are not required to be tested or properly labeled by any regulatory body. None of the vitamins and minerals as well as nutritional supplements manufactured in the US are regulated. This means anyone can start producing and selling their own brand of vitamins or other nutritional supplements without anyone inspecting or testing their product. This means there’s no one to say that the product actually contains what it says it does. There was a study done by ConsumerLab.com, a pharmaceutical watchdog, that discovered “less than half of the multivitamins sold in the US and Canada actually contained what the labels said they did”. Not only that, but one of the multivitamins they tested also contained lead, which is not recommended in any amount.
This doesn’t mean all multivitamins are bad. The well-known vitamins that have been on the market for years can be trusted. Also, many multivitamin manufacturers today submit to a voluntary testing and will carry a seal of approval from 1 of 3 places, The US Pharmacopoeia, NSF International or ConsumerLab.com. So beware of vitamins that don’t carry a seal because you can’t be sure whats in them.
When considering at a multivitamin or nutritional supplement to your diet, a good place to start is by going to ConsumerLab.com, they have information on the best and worst available as well as information on how to choose the one that’s right for you. With the sheer numbers of multivitamins available today it can be overwhelming so there are some basic rules that can help you choose what’s right for you.
Men don’t need as much iron as women do and can usually get what they need from their diet. However, they do need extra selenium to help prevent prostrate cancer.
Women need extra iron to cover the loss that occurs during menstruation and those that have made it through menopause you need more vitamin D. There are also vitamins specific for women that are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.
Believe it or not, most children don’t need extra vitamins and minerals as they are able to get what they need from their diet because today most kids food is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D is the one that’s difficult to get enough of in their diet so choose a multivitamin high in vitamin D.
For people over 60 years of age, you can definitely benefit from a multivitamin because as we age we lose the ability to absorb some vitamins and minerals like B12. There are some good formulas for both men and women over 60 years of age.
There are even multivitamins specific for vegetarians and vegans because there is a whole host of vitamins and minerals that people eating those types of diets don’t get. So it’s important to choose a multivitamin that is specific for vegetarian or vegan.