Reasons to Take a Daily Multivitamin
The ads all say you should be taking a daily multivitamin. But, can you trust the ads? After all, they are companies trying to sell a product. So, should you believe what the ads say? Why should you take multivitamins? Is it really that important?
Getting your vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements is the best method to ensure you are receiving all the nutrients your body needs. However, there are several reasons this isn’t always going to work. Many of us just don’t eat right. Many of us eat a largely processed diet or fast food diet. And even when we do eat right, the nutritional levels in the foods we buy may not be as dense as they could be, or used to be. This happens because—
- Our soils have been depleted by the framing practices of big agriculture; and
- Food is often transported over thousands of miles before it reaches us, so their nutrients may be severely depleted.
Multivitamins provide an easy way to get the nutrients you may be missing. But, just grabbing the cheapest multivitamin off the shelf may not be the best advice.
You can’t just assume that any vitamin is safe. There are no uniform manufacturing rules for supplements so a multivitamin may not contain what the bottle claims. Additionally, it could be contaminated with something from the manufacturing plant, or it might have tainted ingredients. ConsumerLab’s, for example, found that more than half of the 21 multivitamins it tested had too much (or too little) of certain vitamins—or had been contaminated with dangerous substances like lead.
Before you buy, check the label for a quality seal or third-party certification, like “USP” (United States Pharmacopeia), “NSF” (NSF International), or “Consumer Lab” (ConsumerLab.com). Third-party certifications on the label indicate that the contents have undergone rigorous third-party testing to ensure that the ingredients meet quality standards. These certifications also mean that the bottle actually contains the ingredients listed on the label.
Common Nutritional Deficiencies
How do you know if you have a nutritional deficiency? There is only one sure method: have your doctor do a blood test. This may be costly, though. You could follow the advice of the scientists who conduct research on vitamins and minerals. These experts think that slight deficiencies in these nutrients are relatively common: calcium,[i],[ii] chromium,[iii] folate,[iv] magnesium,[v] vitamin B6,[vi] vitamin C,[vii] vitamin B12 (primarily in the elderly),[viii] vitamin D,[ix] vitamin E,[x] and zinc.[xi],[xii]
Most of you will not have any serious symptoms if you lack only a little bit of these nutrients. However, if you have little energy, are fatigued without exertion, feel moody or stressed, or have an inability to focus, you probably aren’t getting enough nutrition from your diet.
Be aware though that slight deficiencies may increase the risk of some diseases. Insufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D may increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, and inadequate folate and vitamin B6 may speed the development of heart disease. The long-term damage from lack of nutrients can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia or arthritis.
Thus, taking supplements to replenish these important vitamins and minerals as a form of insurance may be a good idea. When buying multivitamins, you should ensure that they include at least the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Pantothenic Acid
These are the basic “building blocks” for good health and proper nutrition for golden-agers (50 and up). Be sure to check the FDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) (see mini chart at the end of this article) for each vitamin and mineral, then read the label carefully to ensure you are getting what you need.
Having the right balance of vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin will help give your body the ability to function properly. Here are just a few areas where the correct nutrients can help fend off illness and promote good health.
Preventing Nutritional Deficiencies
When your body is deficient in vitamins and minerals, you can experience an array of health problems. Taking a daily multivitamin can help reduce the risk of health issues due to these deficiencies.
For example, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from damage stemming from external sources (the environment around us) and internal sources (medicines). For instance, in patients with cataracts, this vitamin has shown the ability to help stop the progression of cataracts, and in some cases even reduce the formation of cataracts.
Daily stress is something everyone lives with. Life is filled with stressors, both bad and good. When you feel the adrenalin pumping, you know your body is using up your resources of vitamins and minerals just to handle the anxiety and stress. If you don’t have the proper nutrients your body needs to replenish and handle the drain on your body, you will suffer a deficiency. That’s when you get sick.
For example, our bodies quickly use up vitamin C during stressful situations. If not regularly replaced, this leads to a deficiency. And, in this instance, a deficiency can cause more than an illness. A deficiency of vitamin C can actually perpetuate the stress cycle as it causes irritability and anxiety, causing more stress, causing a drain of more vitamin C, and so on and so forth. It’s a repetitive cycle that needs to be stopped. Taking a supplement with vitamin C can help end this cycle.
Boosting Energy and Brain Power
Lack of proper nutrition can make you feel sluggish and tired. By taking a multivitamin every day, you know you’re providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. We all skip breakfast sometimes, and we know how we feel if we do. Having that bit of nutrition “insurance” helps your body stay healthy and alert – doing what you ask it to do.
In much the same way, having the proper balance of vitamins and minerals provides your brain with the nutrition it needs to stay focused and alert. If achieving mental clarity is a priority in your life then, by all means, add a multivitamin to your daily regimen.
Most of us want to eat right. After all, we need to keep our bodies fed with the proper amount of vitamins and minerals to operate at maximum capacity. Getting the nutrition we need from our food is ideal. But, the fact is, life keeps us busy. We don’t always take the time to eat properly. Including a multivitamin in your day can help fill the gaps in nutrition. That one little step may just give you peace of mind as you strive to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Excerpt from FDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance
|Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)||Upper Tolerable Limit (UL)|
The highest amount you can take without risk
|Boron||Not determined.||20 mg/day|
|Calcium||Women age 51+: 1,200 mg/day|
Men age 71+: 1,200 mg/day
|Age19-50: 2,500 mg/day|
Age 51 and up:2,000 mg/day
|Chloride||Age 50-70: 2,000 mg/day|
Age 70+: 1,800 mg/day
(Vit. B complex)*
|Age 70+: 1,800 mg/day|
Women: 425 mg/day
|Copper||900 micrograms/day||10,000 micrograms/day|
|Fluoride||Men: 4 mg/day|
Women: 3 mg/day
|Folic Acid (Folate)||400 micrograms/day||1,000 micrograms/day|
This applies only to synthetic folic acid in supplements or fortified foods. There is no upper limit for folic acid from natural sources.
|Iodine||150 micrograms/day||1,100 micrograms/day|
|Iron||Men: 8 mg/day|
Women age 50+ usually do not need iron
|Magnesium||Men age 31+: 420 mg/day|
Women age 31+: 320 mg/day
|Manganese||Men: 2.3 mg/day|
Women: 1.8 mg/day
|Molybdenum||45 micrograms/day||2,000 micrograms/day|
|Nickel||Not determined||1.0 mg/day|
|Phosphorus||700 mg/day||Up to age 70: 4,000 mg/day Over age 70: 3,000 mg/day|
|Selenium||55 micrograms/day||400 micrograms/day|
|Sodium||Age 51-70: 1,300 mg/day|
Age 71+: 1,200 mg/day
|Vanadium||Not determined||1.8 mg/day|
|Vitamin A||Men: 3,000 IU/day|
Women: 2,310 IU/day
|Vit. B3 (Niacin)||Men: 16 mg/day|
Women: 14 mg/day
This applies only to niacin in supplements or fortified foods. There is no upper limit for niacin in natural sources.
|Vitamin B6||Men age 51+:1.7 mg/day|
Women age 51+: 1.5 mg/day
|Vitamin C||Men: 90 mg/day|
Women: 75 mg/day
|Vit. D (Calciferol)||Age 1-70: 15 micrograms/day|
(600 IU, or international units)
Age 70+: 20 micrograms/day
|22.4 IU/day||1,500 IU/day|
This applies only to vitamin E in supplements or fortified foods. There is no upper limit for vitamin E from natural sources.
|Zinc||Men: 11 mg/day|
Women: 8 mg/day
- After age 50, absorption slows down for a few nutrients like calcium, vitamins B6 and B12, and you need more vitamin D. Your body no longer produces enough of the acid needed to break down the naturally occurring vitamin B12 from food. Synthetic vitamin B12, found in dietary supplements and in fortified foods, is easier to absorb and does not require the acid from your body.
**This applies only to magnesium in supplements or fortified foods. There is no upper limit for magnesium in food and water.
[i] McCarron DA. Dietary calcium and lower blood pressure: we can all benefit [editorial]. JAMA. 1996;275:1128-1129.
[ii] Ervin RB, Kennedy-Stephenson J. Mineral intakes of elderly adult supplement and non-supplement users in the third national health and nutrition examination survey. J Nutr. 2002;132:3422-3427.
[iii]Mertz W. Chromium in human nutrition: a review. J Nutr. 1993;123:626-633.
[iv] Wald NJ, et al. Quantifying the effect of folic acid. Lancet. 2001;15;358:2069-2073.
[v] Alaimo K, McDowell MA, Briefel RR, et al. Dietary intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber of persons age 2 months and over in the United States: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, phase 1, 1988-91. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics. 1994;258:1-26.
[vi] van der Wielen RP, de Groot LC, van Staveren WA. Dietary intake of water soluble vitamins in elderly people living in a Western society (1980-1993). Nutr Res. 1994;14:605-638.
[vii] Taylor CA, Hampl JS, Johnston CS. Low intakes of vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits, lead to inadequate vitamin C intakes among adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000;54:573-578.
[viii] Saltzman JR, Kemp JA, Golner BB, et al. Effect of hypochlorhydria due to omeprazole treatment or atrophic gastritis on protein-bound vitamin B12 absorption. J Am Coll Nutr. 1994;13:584-591.
[ix] Utiger RD. The need for more vitamin D. N Engl J Med. 1998;338:828-829.
[x] Murphy SP, Subar AF, Block G. Vitamin E intakes and sources in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;52:361-367.
[xi] Ervin RB, Kennedy-Stephenson J. Mineral intakes of elderly adult supplement and non-supplement users in the third national health and nutrition examination survey. J Nutr. 2002;132:3422-3427.
[xii] Sandstead HH. Zinc nutrition in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973;26:1251-1260.