Should You Really Be Taking a Multivitamin? We asked a doctor

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Multivitamins are a combination of many different vitamins that are normally found in foods and other natural sources. Studies have been found that nearly 57.6% of individuals in the U.S. take multivitamins in their daily routine and 70 percent of them are of age more than 70 years and roughly one-third of them use a comprehensive multivitamin pill daily. But is this genuinely a mandatory requirement for all of them?

There are so many diseases that are caused by certain dietary deficiencies. The most common examples are scurvy, beriberi (due to B1 deficiency), pellagra (due to B3 deficiency), and rickets (due to vitamin D deficiency). These vitamin deficiencies are not common in developed countries like the US and Canada where there is a broad variety of vitamin-fortified food available.

Multivitamins fill the nutrient gaps

An individual needs vitamin supplementation in cases such as a nutrient deficiency associated with long-term insufficient diet or malabsorption caused by the poor functioning of the digestive system.

A multivitamin generally contains around 26 different vitamins and minerals and often provides 100% of the daily need for these micronutrients. Although, these vitamins are supposed to fulfill the daily nutrient gaps, strengthen the immune system, improve skin texture and hair growth.

Should you take multivitamins?

A multivitamin is not essential for most people who have a healthy diet, but it can serve as a good “insurance policy” against nutritional deficiencies. It can also fill in nutritional gaps when it’s hard to get all of the nutrients you need from your food alone (during stressful times or periods of illness). Multivitamins are safe to use at any age, however, they can be more beneficial for following people.

  • Older age

The body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 starts to decline gradually with age. Older people may require higher doses of calcium and vitamin D as well.

  • Pregnant women

During pregnancy, women need to take iron, folate, iodine, and some other vitamins to minimize the chances of abnormalities in the child and manipulate a healthy pregnancy.

However, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. That is why the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that all women of reproductive age (15–45) take folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects in children.

  • Malnourished people

Any condition that makes it hard to digest food can prevent the absorption of certain micronutrients your intake. While multivitamins can’t replace a healthy diet, they can fill in the gaps and ensure your body gets everything it needs to function at its best. Such health conditions include celiac disease or cystic fibrosis, gastrointestinal surgeries, vomiting or diarrhea Alcohol addiction.

  • Certain medical conditions

Some medications that are used to lower blood pressure can make the body’s storehouses of magnesium, potassium, and calcium less usable. Hydrogen pump inhibitors, which are used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, can block the absorption of vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium. Medicines that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can make it hard for B vitamins like folate, B6, and B12 to be absorbed in the blood.

The right time to take multivitamins

You should take a multivitamin at the same time of day every day to get the most out of it. It’s best to take a multivitamin with water, immediately after eating breakfast or with breakfast.

Some people may prefer taking their multivitamins at night, but that doesn’t allow for optimal absorption and could leave you with some unwanted side effects, including nausea and headaches.

Neil Levin, a clinical nutritionist at NOW Foods, says taking your multivitamins with food in the morning helps your body absorb certain vitamins and minerals better than taking them on an empty stomach or at night.

Many people take multivitamins to fill nutrient gaps in their diets or to support certain health benefits. Unfortunately, not everyone absorbs nutrients in vitamins well. To get the most out of your supplements, it’s best to take them according to your doctor’s prescription.

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