Should You Be Taking a Multivitamin?
Over a century ago, in the year 1912, scientists discovered nutrients. At the time of the discovery, they were called “accessory substances,” which we now know as vitamins. A scientist named Casimir Funk is credited for the discovery of vitamins and the idea that these vitamins and nutrients found in food were critical to our health. He even suggested that they could cure various diseases.
Within a couple of years after Funk’s discovery, multivitamins became available. Products like “Double Strength Yeast” and “Vitamine” were said to provide the daily requirement of vitamins A, B, and C as well as minerals like iron and calcium. Through the years, people started purchasing supplements for specific vitamins like vitamin A and C. These vitamins were advertised as being able to cure a variety of health troubles including blackheads, brain fog, malnutrition, boils, and constipation.
The multivitamin as we know it today didn’t appear until 1943. By taking one pill a day, you could improve your daily nutrition with many advertisements showing a bottle of multivitamins kept on the dining table to take during dinner. At this time, these vitamins were created with synthetic materials. It wasn’t until 1973 when MegaFood started making multivitamins from plant-based ingredients and real food. By the late 60s, multivitamins had evolved to include a broader range of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Fast forward to today, and multivitamins are not only made from more natural, plant-based ingredients but are expertly combined with another ingredient to boost bioavailability and give your body the “accessory substances” it needs.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, roughly half of Americans take a multivitamin, with 70% of individuals over the age of 65 taking one. If you have been on the fence about adding a multivitamin to your daily routine, here’s what you should know – it depends.
You can’t eat a ton of junk food, get 4-5 hours of sleep on your millet pillow, live a sedentary lifestyle, and expect a multivitamin to keep you in perfect health. There are several diseases caused by a lack of nutrition. For example, a vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, and a vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets. Although they still occur today, they are rare, especially in developed countries like the United States. That said, even with fortified foods, many of us still don’t meet our nutritional requirements. So, even though we likely aren’t at risk for a severe deficiency, we aren’t reaching our health potential.
Some individuals are at greater risk for deficiency. For example, 70% of older adults take a multivitamin because food intake becomes more challenging. Medications, a loss of appetite, changes in taste, and mobility issues mean they aren’t eating as much and don’t have as much variety in their diet. In addition, as we age, our ability to absorb specific vitamins also decreases. B12, for example, is difficult for the elderly to absorb, and they can quickly become deficient if they don’t supplement. A deficiency can cause serious health issues and increase their risk of falling.
Pregnant women are also at greater risk of becoming deficient in folate, a B vitamin. By supplementing with folate, a mother can reduce the risk of the baby having anencephaly or spina bifida. This is more effective when taken during the first few weeks of conception, which is often the time before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Due to its importance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mg of folic acid, which is commonly found in many multivitamins.
Health food stores, supermarkets, and even your local Walmart will have vitamins for older adults, men, women, and kids. These are supposed to be specific formulations catered to the nutritional needs of that demographic.
When it comes to children’s vitamins, many health care providers feel that most children get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet – even if they’re a picky eater! According to Rachel Dawkins, M.D., director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, “typically kids don’t need vitamins, but every kid is different and has different needs.” She does say, however, that there are exceptions and that children all have different needs. For example, premature infants are often prescribed a multivitamin with iron before being discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She also advised that if a parent chooses to give their child a multivitamin, it won’t do any harm.
Like children, adults may be advised to take a multivitamin if they have a health condition that prevents them from getting the nutrients their body needs. Certain health conditions can reduce the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. For example, diseases like cystic fibrosis, celiac, and ulcerative colitis, as well as surgeries that affect the digestive system like gastric bypass, can reduce absorption capabilities.
Many medications have the same effect. Prescriptions that lower blood pressure and act as a diuretic can also deplete your body of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. If you are older, of childbearing age, take certain medications or have a health condition that reduces the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals, your doctor may advise you to take a multivitamin. For others, it will depend on a number of factors.
First, ask yourself why you are considering a multivitamin. Is it because you think your diet is too limited to get an adequate about of vitamins and minerals? Are you on a restricted diet or not eating enough? These are relatively straightforward situations where you can start supplementing your nutrition with a multivitamin.
Despite the majority of Americans exceeding energy (caloric) needs, they are not meeting their nutritional needs. This is because many of the foods we eat are made in factories, containing a high level of sugar. Additionally, beverages like alcohol and soda pop add calories without providing much nutrition.
If you are thinking of taking a multivitamin because you are feeling lightheaded, fainting, tired all the time, confused, or rapidly losing weight, you should speak to your health care provider. Although it is possible these symptoms can occur from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it is also possible it is being caused by a serious health condition.
The good news is there is minimal risk with taking a multivitamin. Some people may experience stomach issues like constipation, diarrhea, or nausea, but this is usually temporary and stops once the body gets used to it. Rarer side effects may include headaches or insomnia, typically caused by additives or an exceptionally high amount that exceeds the daily safe upper limit (U.L.).
If you are concerned about a specific mineral or vitamin, you can take that rather than take a multivitamin. Using the example of older individuals above, they may take a multivitamin; however, if their body is not absorbing vitamin B12, they may instead get bi-weekly injections.
Magnesium Glycinate supplements are another good example. This type of supplementation can help improve sleep quality, reduce stress and make you feel more relaxed.
Although many people will be selective about the vitamins they supplement with, most continue to take a multivitamin. Despite their popularity, a great deal of research hasn’t been done on the health benefits and how exactly it affects our bodies. The Physicians’ Health Study II is said to be the best study there is on the topic. The one-of-a-king study had a large group of male physicians take either a multivitamin or placebo pill for over a decade. Though some results were mixed, they did find that the men who took a multivitamin were 8% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. They also found that they had a lower risk of developing cataracts. The study did not find that a multivitamin offered any protection for cardiovascular disease or a declining memory.
A multivitamin has little risk, low cost, and the potential to help your body run a little smoother. When selecting a multivitamin, you should choose one with purer ingredients and fewer fillers. As you can imagine, a lot of chewy candy-like multivitamins have more of these fillers, artificial colors, and flavors that can trigger headaches in some.
To receive the benefits of a multivitamin, choose a multivitamin made in the USA. Our multivitamin is made in the USA, and we’ve handpicked the best ingredients that are proven to work. Further, when your body is supported and in balance, you can restore your sleep cycle and get better sleep on your millet pillow.
Consistently getting enough sleep, daily physical activity, and a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is critical to your health and well-being. Yet, it can be easier said than done with our busy, demanding lives. Just like changing your pillow can improve sleep and reduce pain, adding a multivitamin to your diet can help you feel better.