There is no substitute for a healthy diet, but with the increasingly hectic lifestyles of today, it is often challenging to stick to a balanced nutritional diet. In that case, you can supplement your diet with multiple vitamin–mineral supplements, also known as multivitamins. These nutrient combinations provide you with high nutrient amounts, which may help in maintaining good health.
Your body needs over 34 vitamins and minerals to function optimally. Research reveals that in order to fulfil your physical requirements of vitamins and minerals, you would need to consume about 3000 calories worth of fruits and vegetables. Multivitamins act only as supplements and should not be used as a replacement for healthy foods.
Are Multivitamins Safe?
Poor appetite, strict dieting, changing nutritional needs or unhealthy food choices are taking a toll on your health. To fill in small nutritional gaps, taking a multivitamin daily will certainly help in compensating for this dietary loss. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fibre, calcium, potassium and vitamin D are essential nutrients for adults and children. Multivitamins are rich in these nutrients, except fibre, and are thus seen as a nutritional back-up to maintain optimal health.
However, research on human nutrition claims that the one-size-fits-all approach fails to fully address the increased requirement for specific nutrients for people who are at an increased risk of developing certain diseases because of lifestyle habits or genetics. Though there may be differences of opinion regarding the utility of multivitamins, these certainly help in bridging nutrient gaps and supporting general health while also preventing certain health risks.
Abundant research also reveals therapeutic benefits of multivitamins even when eating a healthy diet. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a regular dose of multivitamins helps to reduce the risk of cancer by almost 12 percent in 50-year-old men.
However, it is important to keep in mind that excess ingestion of fat soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, tend to store in the body, thus posing toxicity risks.
Which is the Best Multivitamin?
A well-chosen multivitamin ensures that you get all the required nutrients as you age, since your nutritional needs keep changing in different stages of your life. Some multivitamins are specific for women of childbearing age, while there are some prenatal vitamins for pregnant women or those planning motherhood.
For women: There are women specific multivitamin supplements designed especially for females of child-bearing years. These typically include nutrients with more iron and folic acid, which help to prevent birth defects in pregnant women or those contemplating pregnancy.
For men: Male-specific multivitamins are designed to cater to the nutrient requirements of adult men, comprising a high dose of several vitamins and minerals. Typically men-specific multivitamins don't include iron because men need less of this mineral.
For seniors: There are multivitamins customised specially for men and women above 50 years of age. These specific formulations take into account that absorption often slows down after age 50 for a few nutrients, including vitamins B6, B12 and calcium. Elderly people need more vitamin D, and therefore these multivitamins contain a greater level of vitamin D.
Multivitamins come in two forms –capsules and tablets, which may be chewed or swallowed. There are low potency, high potency multivitamins. The perfect time to take multivitamins is with a meal, which will help with absorption of nutrients and also minimise the chance of an upset stomach.
So you can choose a multivitamin depending on your age, gender and physical requirements. A doctor is the best person to recommend a multivitamin dosage depending on your needs.