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Nearly half of adults in the U. There are certainly diseases caused by a lack of specific nutrients in the diet. Classic examples include scurvy from a lack of vitamin C , beri-beri vitamin B1 , pellagra vitamin B3 , and rickets vitamin D. But these conditions are rare in the U. We will explore situations that a multivitamin may be health-promoting, as well as if there is a benefit or harm in taking extra nutrients from a pill if the diet is already adequate.
For those who eat a healthful diet , a multivitamin may have little or no benefit. A diet that includes plenty of fruits , vegetables , whole grains , good protein sources , and healthful fats should provide most of the nutrients needed for good health.
But not everyone manages to eat a healthful diet. When it comes to specific vitamins and minerals, some Americans get less than adequate amounts, according to criteria set by the National Academy of Medicine. Multivitamins come in various forms tablets, capsules, liquid s, powders and are packaged as a specific combination of nutrients B-complex, calcium with vitamin D or as a comprehensive multivita min. S upplement s are a multibillion-dollar industry, with endless deer labels of brands from which to choose. However, an expensive brand name is not necessary as even st andard generic brand s will deliver .
This seal ensures that the ingredients and amounts of that ingredient listed on the label are c ontained in the pill. The USP also runs several tests that confirm the pill to be free of contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides and has been manufactured under sanitary and regulated conditions. That said, you may wish to consider the following factors before starting a multivitamin or any supplemental vitamin. If yo u are unsure about taking a multivitamin , you may wish to consult with a registered dietitian who can evaluate your current diet to determine any missing nutrients.
At that time , suggestions to improve your food intake of those nutrients will be provided, or one or more supplemental vitamin s may be prescribed if th at is not possible. Always inform your doctor of all supplements you are taking in case of potential interactions with medications.
M ega-dose s many times the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins are not recommended. This can potentially interfere with the absorption of other nutrients or medications, or can even become toxic if too much is taken for a long period. Also be wary of vitamins that contain extras, like herbs and botanicals, which are typically lacking in research about long-term effects and potential adverse effects.
Knowledge about the optimal intakes of vitamins and mi nerals to prevent chronic diseases is not set in stone. More long-term studies looking at this relationship are needed. There is no arguing that multivitamins are important when nutritional requirements are not met through diet alone.
For many diseases, but especially for cancer, only long-term trials are informative. The following studies looked at the effect of multivitamins on specific diseases and include d healthy people as well as those w ith chronic disease s at the start of the study :. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial provided a multivitamin or placebo to more than 14, male physicians, some with a history of cancer. The did not differ among men who had a history of cancer at the start of the study and men who were healthy at baseline. After 11 years, compared with the placebo, there was no ificant effect of a daily MVI on cardiovascular events.
Some research has suggested that the rates of death appear higher in people using multivitamins. However, one major flaw in these studies was that many of the participants had already developed some type of serious illness. They may have started using vitamins after their health deteriorated, hoping for a benefit. But in those cases, taking a multivitamin might have been too late. It is important to remember that a multivitamin cannot in any way replace a healthful well-balanced diet. The main purpose of a multivitamin is to fill in nutritional gaps, and provides only a hint of the vast array of healthful nutrients and chemicals naturally found in food.
It cannot offer fiber or the flavor and enjoyment of foods so key to an optimal diet. However, multivitamins can play an important role when nutritional requirements are not met through diet alone. When this is the case, an expensive brand name is not necessary, as even standard store brands will deliver . The contents of this website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products. Harvard T. The Nutrition Source Menu. Search for:. Who May be at Risk for a Nutrient Deficiency? The elderly are at risk for poor food intake for various reasons: difficulty chewing and swallowing food, experiencing unpleasant taste changes caused by multiple medications, or isolation and loneliness that can depress appetite.
They also have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food. The National Academy of Medicine, in fact, recommends that people over the age of 50 eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take vitamin B12 pills that are better absorbed than from food sources. Getting enough folate , a B vitamin, is especially important for women who may become pregnant, since adequate folate can help lower the risk of having a baby with spina bifida or anencephaly. For the folate to be effective, it must be taken in the first few weeks of conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Yet in the U. Malabsorption conditions. Any condition that interferes with normal digestion can increase the risk of poor absorption of one or several nutrients. Examples: Diseases like celiac, ulcerative colitis, or cystic fibrosis. Surgeries that remove parts of digestive organs such as having a gastric bypass for weight loss or a Whipple procedure that involves many digestive organs. Illnesses that cause excess vomiting or diarrhea can prevent nutrients from being absorbed. Alcoholism can prevent nutrients, including several B vitamins and vitamin C , from being absorbed.
Certain medications. Proton pump inhibitors prescribed for acid reflux and heartburn can prevent the absorption of vitamin B12 and possibly calcium and magnesium. A note on vitamin D For most people, the best way to get enough vitamin D is taking a supplement because it is hard to get enough through food. Although some foods are fortified with vitamin D, few foods contain it naturally. Vitamin D production in the skin is the primary natural source of vitamin D, but many people have insufficient levels because they live in places where sunlight is limited in winter, or because they have limited sun exposure.
Also, people with darker skin tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin D because the pigment melanin acts like a shade, reducing production of vitamin D. Cancer A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial provided a multivitamin or placebo to more than 14, male physicians, some with a history of cancer. Mortality Some research has suggested that the rates of death appear higher in people using multivitamins.
It showed that women over the age of 55 who took multivitamins were at higher risk for dying than those who did not. As a result, it is unknown whether the women were already taking vitamins when they became ill, or if they became ill and then started taking vitamins. In women who were already sick, taking vitamins was unlikely to lower their risk of dying. Dietary supplement use in the United States, — The Journal of nutrition.
Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients?. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary supplements and disease prevention—a global overview. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: an updated systematic evidence review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of internal medicine. Archives of internal medicine. Enjoying a hot or iced cup for NationalCoffeeDay?
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Vitamins - common misconceptions