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We have become obsessed with good health and looking and feeling good. Although these are the ideal goals we must have for ourselves, experts believe may be overdoing it. Vitamins, vitamin shakes, multivitamins, supplements, etc. have become an integral part of the millennial and Gen Z healthcare routine. It’s not uncommon to see shelves in pharmacies lined up with shiny bottles claiming to be the multivitamin we’ve been looking for with words like “extra”, “mega”, “ultra”. The visual communication and marketing of products and social media influence is so appealing that we often fall into the trap of buying without thinking.
To take or not to take multivitamins still remains an ambiguous topic. Mixed research findings and difference of opinions have made it difficult to ascertain a right or wrong answer regarding the consumption of multivitamins.If you are taking a multivitamin, thinking of starting one or are confused whether to take any at all, we hope this blog will help you decide what’s best for you.
Multivitamins: Think Before Popping
When it comes to our health, an expert medical opinion is highly recommended. Even if you are a perfectly healthy person, consuming certain medicines or following a particular diet must always be done in consultation with an expert. If you are a regular consumer of multivitamins or any vitamin supplements for that matter, ask yourself why you are taking them in the first place. Has a doctor advised you to take them because you suffer from a vitamin deficiency? If that’s the case, fine. However, if you are simply taking multivitamins simply because others are or you liked what a bottle of multivitamins says it can do for your nails, skin, hair, etc., you should take a step back and think if that’s a wise decision.
Multivitamins: Good or bad?
Food is the best source of nutrition for human beings. If you follow a good diet with a balance of all nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, there may be no need for multivitamins in your diet. If at all you are feeling low on energy, then multivitamins may not be the answer. Instead, experts recommend that you identify the underlying causes for whatever condition you are facing and work on enriching your diet. In addition, leading a balanced lifestyle with the right exercise and relaxation is sufficient to ensure good health. Health and nutrition experts have a different view of multivitamins.
According to Jennifer Boozer, DO, family medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USC and clinical assistant professor of family medicine (clinician educator) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC:
“Since we do not have strong evidence supporting the use of multivitamins, and they may in fact be harmful, I like to work closely with my patients to ensure that their diets are providing optimum nutrition…In certain cases we do need to supplement individual vitamins or minerals that may be missing. An annual preventive exam is a great opportunity to discuss this.”
On the other hand, according to Dr. Howard Sesso, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, “there are potential benefits and there are no known risks at this time… It is worth considering a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle.”
When Not To Take Multivitamins
As mentioned before, products, advertisements, promotional articles about vitamin shakes, pills, etc. claim “Vitamin C to boost your immune system, Vitamin A to protect your vision, Vitamin B to keep you energized” (Science Alert, 2018). However, the truth is that you need not take these vitamins in the form of supplements; these are already present in foods that are easily available in fruits like berries, vegetables, etc. If you have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and you take these specific supplements also, you are doing yourself more harm than good. Remember the one universal rule: anything in excess or too less disturbs the balance. Similarly, if you consume an excess of these vitamins, you may develop health problems and/or be more susceptible to serious health conditions in the long run.
When To Take Multivitamins
Taking vitamins is beneficial in special cases and/or medical conditions. For example, consuming folic acid which is a B vitamin is essential for pregnant women because this ensures the optimal growth of the fetus. It also prevents neural tube and spinal defects in the child. Other examples of medical conditions requiring vitamin supplements are in the case of people with “anemia and osteoporosis and those with malabsorption disorders including IBS or colitis” (Eat This.com, August 2019). In the case of persons who are anemic, iron supplements are recommended. Anemia is a condition wherein there’s a shortage of healthy red blood cells to supply adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. In this case, iron supplements are highly recommended to treat anemia. They are safe to consume after consultation with your medical advisor.
Things to remember before taking or discontinuing multivitamins:
- Always consult a doctor before taking any supplements be it multivitamins or specific doses of vitamins
- Never consume high doses of specific vitamins, especially A and E. These may do more harm than good
- Don’t rely on what you read online or on the packaging labels of products; use common sense and doctor’s advice
- Invest in diet counselling with a good nutritionist; he or she is the best guide
- Be open and honest with your doctor about any concerns you have about your health. This will enable your doctor to prescribe the right type and dosage of multivitamins if necessary. He or she may also ask you to discontinue certain vitamins if they think necessary.
There is no particular research finding that can ascertain if multivitamins are good or bad; this remains a grey area. While there are many studies conducted to study the effects of multivitamins, it is still too soon to establish a black and white answer. However, when it comes to health and nutrition, do not take it lightly and self-medicate on assumptions or other influences. You can take multivitamins if you are suffering from a vitamin deficiency or other medical conditions. At the same time, do not discontinue any vitamin supplements without consulting your doctor. To sum up, take multivitamins if and when necessary and/or ascertained by an experienced medical advisor. Don’t be a doctor yourself!