Shockingly, over half of all American adults take a multivitamin or other supplement regularly. Many people zealously pop these pills, often trying to compensate for severe nutrient deficiency and imbalance from a toxic diet. The truth behind multivitamins is more surprising than you may think…hint, they aren’t necessarily helpful. In fact, you may be wasting your money.
What are multivitamins?
There is often confusion surrounding the difference between multivitamins and supplements. Supplements usually contain one specific vitamin or mineral and are typically used to supplement a dietary or other deficiency. Multivitamins, on the other hand, are often consumed daily and may contain many different vitamins and minerals. Kind of a “catch-all” type situation.
Are they important?
In an editorial in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine titled “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” researchers from John Hopkins University reviewed a wealth of evidence surrounding supplements, finding a severe lack of proof that these multivitamins actually do anything. Researchers looked at results from three recent studies in particular:
- An analysis of research involving 450,000 people, which found that multivitamins did not reduce risk for heart disease or cancer.
- A study that tracked the mental functioning and multivitamin use of 5,947 men for 12 years found that multivitamins did not reduce risk for mental declines such as memory loss or slowed-down thinking.
- A study of 1,708 heart attack survivors who took a high-dose multivitamin or placebo for up to 55 months. Rates of later heart attacks, heart surgeries and deaths were similar in the two groups.
What is the answer?
The evidence is overwhelming, proving that multivitamins aren’t the magic pill that many people treat them as. They cannot make up for a nutrient-deficient diet, nor are they helpful for preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, or increasing lifespan. Multivitamins are not a shortcut. The best way to maintain your health is to prioritize a balanced, whole foods diet and make daily exercise part of your routine. These simple lifestyle changes are backed by decades of evidence and are actually effective at reducing preventable disease and helping you live a longer and healthier life.
If you eat well, the only thing a multivitamin does is cost money. In the end, nutrients from real foods are much more beneficial than anything you can get from a bottle.
Who actually needs multivitamins?
While the evidence is clear that getting proper nutrients through your diet is best, there are some situations where a multivitamin may prove beneficial.
If you fall into any of the categories below and decide that a multivitamin is for you, do your research before choosing one. There are many healthy, wholesome multivitamins, but there are also brands with unhealthy additives like fillers and sugars. Be sure that you are getting quality multivitamins if you plan to take them.
Research has shown that multivitamins, especially those with folic acid can help prevent the fetus from being small for its gestational age and reduce the risk of defects in the fetus’s neural tube, urinary tract, cardiovascular system, and limbs. Most multivitamins contain this essential folic acid; however, prenatal vitamins or a simple folic acid supplement may be more effective in getting the necessary dose. If you are pregnant or could get pregnant, start taking a vitamin with folic acid today as it is crucial for early development.
Those with certain diseases
People with diseases such as Chrons, type 2 diabetes, and celiac disease may benefit from taking a multivitamin as these conditions carry a higher chance of developing a nutritional deficiency due to reducing the absorption of nutrients into the body.
Though restrictive dieting usually isn’t healthy if you are depriving your body of critical nutrients, certain diets such as vegan aren’t unhealthy as long as you carefully plan out your meals and maintain a healthy balance of food groups. You can receive most of the nutrients you need from plant-based sources, but it may be helpful to take a multivitamin to help fill in any gaps in your diet. If you have to be on a restrictive diet for health reasons, you may want to look into taking a multivitamin that is suited for your needs.
-The UpWellness Team