After studying nutritional sciences for five years, I have found that more and more of the population believes multivitamins, rather than whole foods, are the “one-stop-shop” for optimal nutrition. In fact, it is estimated that Americans spend $36.7 billion annually on the purchase of multivitamins. With that many purchases, it would seem that multivitamins are the answer to health, but does everybody truly benefit from their use?
Multivitamins have a place in a nutritious lifestyle, but there a few stipulations.
Many times, multivitamins provide more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of various vitamins and minerals. Although this may seems beneficial, it is not always a good thing. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, all B vitamins) can only be absorbed up to 100%; anything more than 100% will be discarded through urine. This can be dangerous for those with kidney problems, as the processing of the excess nutrients may be harmful to the kidneys. On the flip side, fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) will be stored in fat cells when more than 100% is absorbed. Typically this is not a problem, but toxic levels can build up in the body.
Less is More
The human body is capable of doing amazing things, such as monitoring the amount of nutrients being processed at a given time. When the body senses an enormous amount of a vitamin or mineral being consumed, it will absorb less than the full amount. On the contrary, when a little bit of the same vitamin or mineral is being consumed, the body will absorb almost all, if not 100%, of the nutrient! Therefore, multivitamins that provide over 100% of a given nutrient may not be benefiting the body as much as it seems.
Multivitamins are a great thing when they are actually needed! Some people may be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals in which a multivitamin can help them build up their levels. The best way to know of a deficiency is to see a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are trained in how food and its nutrients affect the body. Once a deficiency is noted, the registered dietitian can help recommend multivitamins with the appropriate levels of nutrients that will provide the most benefits.
The best practice is to consult your doctor or registered dietitian for guidance when choosing to take a multivitamin. Remember, not everybody will benefit the same from a multivitamin. It is important to know yourself and if you have any nutrient deficiencies.
Sources: “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements — Health Professional Fact Sheet.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.