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Should You Take a Multi-vitamin?

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

vitaminsThe jury is still out on the usefulness of vitamins and supplements.

A report published in mid-2013 on the JAMA Internal Medicine journal website (http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1568520) concludes that most people take supplements because the action makes the individual feel healthier, not because the science supports taking supplements.

In fact, according to a WebMD article, most doctors and nutritionists would recommend spending the $20 a month (that would be spent on supplements) on eating a better diet.

Vitamins can be an "Insurance Policy.”

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/) vitamins may help to supplement a diet that is missing some essential nutrition, but vitamins and supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet. If individuals choose to take a vitamin, they should take a multi-vitamin and stay away from "megas” that offer more than the daily allowance of nutrients, because too much of something can also be harmful. The Harvard site also points to research specifically around Vitamin D supplements as a positive addition to a diet, because most individuals do not get enough vitamin D naturally.

It is important to note that another article from JAMA directly contradicts Harvard’s recommendation of a multi-vitamin. A study published in 2011 (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104493) points to increases in certain types of cancer and nerve damage directly related to supplement use and too much of certain nutrients.

Because most vitamins are not regulated, is there a source to know which may be safer?

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is attempting to add some regulation to the unregulated supplement market. Products that meet program requirements are awarded the USP Verified Mark for use on labels, packaging, and promotional materials. The USP Verified Mark is meant to signify a product:

  1. contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
  2. does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants.
  3. will break down and release into the body within a specified amount of time.
  4. has been made according to FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices using sanitary and well-controlled procedures. 

Does all of this sound confusing?

If so, you are not alone. The bottom line remains that there is no substitute or supplement for a healthy diet. Talk with your medical provider about your diet and about any supplements you are taking or considering taking.

Tags:  Diet  Intellectual  March 2014  Nutrition  Physical 

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