Several years ago I worked for a chain of health food stores that sold every multi-vitamin and nutrition supplement you could possibly imagine! For me, someone who was fascinated with the topic of nutrition and how to live a healthy life the natural way, my place of employment was like Santa's Grotto! I was like a kid at Christmas every time a new line of products was brought in and was always one of the first to try them out.
But one thing always bothered me! The amount of people that came into the store looking for that "magic pill". Whether it was the latest and greatest trend being discussed on the Dr. Oz TV show, or the most recent, "super supplement" they had been reading about, they were desperate to find that "quick fix" to their health issue.
Why did this bother me? Because often, after speaking with these customers, it became apparent that they had a genuine health concern but either had no idea HOW to address or it, or if they did, were not interested in putting in the work and effort necessary to fix the problem from it's root. Instead they truly believed that taking a pill or two a day, or a greens powder in their smoothie would be the answer to all their woes. Unfortunately, this is not the answer. But that doesn't mean there isn't a place in this world for healthy, whole-food-based, nutrition supplements.
One of the most common supplements purchased as I'm sure you can imagine was the famous multi-vitamin.
Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: a combination of all different essential vitamins all put together in one pill, capsule or liquid. Some multi-vitamins even include additional nutrients such as amino acids, green superfoods or herbs. What is important to note however is the more ingredients packed into a dose, the lower the amount of each vitamin or nutrient will be in that dose. So if it is truly certain vitamins you are looking to supplement, then "the more the merrier" when it comes to additional ingredients in your multi-vitamin may NOT be the way to go.
Multi-vitamins are the most commonly used supplements in the world! And for good reason. Because the standard, modern-day "diet" has become so artificial and processed, natural sources of vitamins and minerals in our diet are consumed less and less. Those who realise this turn to a multi-vitamin supplement hoping to address the issue without needing to drastically change their eating habits.
There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact reproduction, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.
People often say that if you follow a "balanced diet," you'll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but unfortunately that is not always the case. Even if you are aware that you should focus on eating real, wholefoods instead of artificial, processed foods, it still may not be enough. Why? Because your digestion plays a big role in how well you break down and absorb the nutrients in your food....and the health of your digestive system is very closely linked to how and what you eat overall. No matter how you look at it, you cannot beat eating a natural, whole-food-based diet and grass-roots home cooking to ensure adequate nutrition, proper digestion and optimum health. But unfortunately, because of the craziness of life, this often seems too difficult for a lot of people and so they resort to fast food, microwave dinners and a multi-vitamin to fill in the gaps!
So when is taking a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement a good idea?.... to "supplement" what should already be a healthy, nutritious diet. Multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplements should NOT be considered the plaster or band-aid for a poor diet!
So if you have been diagnosed with a certain nutrient deficiency or have known digestive issues, a multi-vitamin might be a smart choice for you until your digestion improves and your deficiency is restored. But how do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If there are at least three different vitamins and minerals listed, it’s a multivitamin.
There have been a lot of studies done on multi-vitamins over the years but unfortunately the quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a "multivitamin." Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.
So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?
Here’s a quick summary of the statistics and the science behind multi-vitamin use:
● Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.
● In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.
● In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.
● In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.
● In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.
● In terms of mortality (death), there doesn't seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.
All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.
Are multivitamins safe?
Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe. Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.
However, there are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what's on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines). It is always recommended however that you look for a whole-food-based and organic supplement to avoid artificial fillers and stabilisers that are often added to cheaper supplements.
This is why choosing supplements that are licensed or regulated where possible, and from reputable companies is so important.
Multivitamins are not a quick path towards optimal health. There is limited evidence that they improve health for most people. But there are some benefits.
Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they're also safe (as long as you have a quality product). But remember, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods, ideally from natural, organic sources where possible. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed food prevents many diseases.
If you know the importance of switching to a clean, whole-food-based diet but are overwhelmed with where to start, CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION and let's brainstorm together to find the best plan for you :)