*All information contained in this article is for education purposes only. Please discuss the use of a multivitamin or any other supplement with your doctor prior to use.
Vitamins and minerals, also referred to as micronutrients, are an important part of a healthy diet. While macronutrients are responsible for larger roles, such as energy, tissue maintenance, and hormone production, micronutrients play a more supporting role: boosting your immune system, helping to convert energy, and other important tasks.
Ideally, through variety in our diet we would consume adequate amounts of all the necessary vitamins and minerals we need (many of which are present in varying levels in the foods we consume). However, given the increased prevalence of packaged foods in the American diet, many people lack the necessary variety and overall nutrition necessary to optimize these micronutrient levels.
The question is: is taking a daily vitamin effective for supplementing micronutrients into your diet?
The truth is there is still no definitive answer as to whether a daily multivitamin supplement can prevent the onset of chronic disease and improve overall health.1,2 Some experts argue that current studies haven’t been completed over a long enough period of time to establish any consensus. As a result, daily multivitamin use has decreased over the past decade.3
Some experts say that daily vitamin supplementation takes emphasis away from eating nutrient-dense foods, and gives people an excuse to avoid reducing highly-processed foods in their diet. Others argue that multivitamins are completely safe to use (excess water-soluble vitamin intake simply results in excretion through urine), and therefore act as a relatively cheap form of nutritional insurance. Additionally, a deficiency in vitamin B12 is pretty common in older adults, often occurring even in the presence of adequate intake due to a lack in the stomach acid needed to metabolize it. The vitamin B12 contained in a standard multivitamin does not require this same level of degradation, and is therefore more easily absorbed by the body.4
The jury is still out as to the definitive benefits of multivitamin use. However, taking a daily multivitamin seems to be a relatively inexpensive way to ensure you are receiving all of the daily micronutrients your body requires for optimal functioning. At worst, they simply do nothing (when taken in the recommended doses). Given their relatively cheap price, there’s no reason not to have this nutritional insurance on hand.
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