Should You Take a Multivitamin?
November 01, 2021
To supplement or not to supplement - that is the question. Dietary supplement usage reached an all-time high in 2019, with 77% of Americans reporting taking at least one. Yet many still argue that you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need by following a healthy diet. Although it's an admirable goal, the reality is that we simply do not consume enough nutrients in our diets.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans points out that while most Americans consume enough of most nutrients, "some nutrients are consumed by many individuals below adequate intakes." Most of us are not getting enough potassium, fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, vitamins A, D, E, or C. Adolescent girls and women ages 19 to 50 are also consuming less than the recommended amount of iron. B-vitamins, zinc, Omega 3 fatty acids, and certain trace minerals should most likely be added to the under-consumed list.
Here are some basic truths we should remember when thinking about whether to take a supplement or not:
1) Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is based on consuming the bare minimum to prevent deficiencies. We need new RDIs to address the goal of achieving more optimal levels. That science does not really exist yet.
2) Our food supply is less nutritious than it once was. This is due to overprocessing foods and growing food in depleted soils. Also, many fruits and vegetables lose nutrients as soon as they are harvested and sit too long in the grocery store. In fact, a University of California study found some spinach can lose up to 90% of its vitamin C 24 hours after harvest.
3) We generally don't consume enough food and nutrients required to meet our needs. Our sedentary lifestyles mean we require less food and, therefore, get fewer nutrients.
Almost everyone who eats a very healthy diet will likely have nutrient pitfalls. Also, many individuals today are avoiding foods with gluten or dairy. Vegetarians and vegans have particularly special needs that should be addressed.
But before you rush out to buy vitamins, remember that a one-supplement-fits-all approach isn't the best. You should be sure to to consult with a Registered Dietitian, who can make personalized recommendations based on your current diet, nutrient intake, and lifestyle. Your dietitian might also recommend micronutrient testing to help pinpoint specific nutrient deficiencies that could otherwise go undetected.
The final answer - yes, it's probably a good idea to take a multivitamin. A high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement does not replace a healthy diet, but it can enhance it. Supplements fill the gaps in one's daily diet to provide a good foundation to help build health and wellness.
Diet and Nutrients , Dietary Supplements, Blog