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Multi-vitamins: The pros and cons

24 November, 2014

If you pride yourself on consuming a healthy, balanced diet, you may be considering or already taking a multi-vitamin. Or perhaps you are worried you aren’t getting enough nutrients in your diet? 

A multi-vitamin is a tablet or liquid containing a variety of vitamins and is intended to supply dietary supplements for those looking for better health. Multi-vitamins can come in a range of forms, ranging from tablets and capsules to powders and liquids.

Many multi-vitamins are formulated or labelled to differentiate consumer sectors, such as prenatal, children, over 50, men’s, women’s or diabetic, but for some nutritional experts multi-vitamins are nothing more than a multibillion-dollar industry that offer little in the way of health benefits.

So what are the pros and cons of multi-vitamins? Should you be taking one or are they simply a waste of money?

Pros

  • Provide both vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in a person’s diet.
  • They improve many bodily functions and can assist with mental health.
  • Decrease your risk of vitamin deficiency.
  • Can help you digest food.
  • Allows fussy eaters, such as children, a regular intake of essential vitamins.

Cons

  • Risk of becoming reliant on multi-vitamins.
  • Risk of vitamin toxicity.
  • Can in some cases cause more harm than good.

One of the biggest problems with multi-vitamins is that people presume they are a good supplement for a healthy, balanced diet. They’re not. A good diet is always the best way to achieve overall good health.

Multi-vitamins are designed for those who struggle eating healthily, a prime example being children who are fussy about eating fruit and vegetables. Children do a lot of running around and that burns up energy and vitamins fast, so without a good diet to support an active lifestyle, a multi-vitamin could be of some benefit.

The other major problem with multi-vitamins is that many people don’t know what it is they are taking. Multi-vitamins should be chosen carefully to ensure you are getting the vitamins that meet your needs. Men don’t require too much iron, and the recommended daily intake is just 8 milligrams per day. Considering most men get a lot of iron through red meat, egg yolks, turkey and chicken, there is very little need for a multi vitamin that contains iron. Without realising, a man consuming a multi-vitamin with iron could end up with an overload in iron, resulting in vitamin toxicity.

Women, on the other hand, need lots of iron to make up for the loss of minerals during monthly menstruation. With a recommended daily intake of 18 milligrams, a multi-vitamin containing iron could be beneficial.

Older people lose the ability to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients, with B12 being one of them. B12 can be a good supplement to take, as can vitamin K which helps prevent hip problems, but certain medications can be affected by these supplements.

The best way to ensure you are taking the right multi-vitamin is to consult with your doctor or, better yet, find your nutrients and vitamins through your food. Diet really is the best and most efficient way to secure good health. 

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