Daily multivitamins not usually necessary
Q: Should I take a daily multivitamin?
A: This may come as a surprise, but for healthy adults, the use of a daily multivitamin is generally not recommended. Research has not been able to show that taking multivitamins in supplement form can prevent illness.
Vitamins are important, but the best sources of them are the foods we eat. The federal 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that “nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods.”
Prevention of chronic diseases — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes — can begin with an emphasis on a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise as well as a balanced diet containing fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Below is a list of important vitamins and some foods in which they can be found.
Food sources of vitamins
Vitamin A: carrots, leafy vegetables, eggs (yolks), chicken, fortified milk
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, green pepper, potatoes
Vitamin D: salmon, tuna, cheese
Vitamin E: vegetable oil, almonds, peanuts, spinach, sweet potato
Vitamin B12: fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, fortified cereal
Vitamin B6: fish, potatoes, turkey, bread
Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese
If you do choose to take daily vitamins, perhaps because you are unable to consume enough of the foods that contain the vitamins you need, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Today, multivitamin products are often designed and marketed for specific groups of people — kids, women, men or seniors, for example.
This is important to consider when choosing a multivitamin, because the vitamins included will be targeted to the needs of the population on the label. For example, a multivitamin for women may include a higher amount of iron, while a multivitamin for seniors will include higher amounts of lutein and lycopene.
The old saying, “too much of a good thing,” is as true as ever when taking vitamin supplements.
The U.S. government’s Food and Nutrition Board is tasked with defining the recommended daily allowances for vitamins and minerals. Stick to those limits, which can be found on the website of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/dailyvalues.aspx).
Taking more than the recommended amount of certain supplements could put you at risk for side effects. (However, it’s nearly impossible to overdose on vitamins from food.)
Additionally, those who smoke should be cautious when taking multivitamins containing beta-carotene or vitamin A, due to a potential increased risk of lung cancer.
Finally, multivitamins can affect how some medications work when taken together, such as calcium and certain antibiotics.
Remember, you can always talk with your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have questions regarding the use of multivitamins and whether they are right for you.
Meghan Gill is a rising fourth-year Pharm.D. student at VCU School of Pharmacy. She studied biology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Her area of focus is pediatrics, and she hopes to pursue a career as a pediatric clinical pharmacist.