A Wellness Guide to
possible and preferable to get your nutrients from a healthy,
balanced diet. But surveys show that many fall short in a variety
of key vitamins and minerals. Moreover, recent research has
underscored the importance of some of these nutrients, notably
vitamin D and folic acid. And some studies suggest that people
who take multivitamin/mineral pills have a lower risk of several
diseases, including colon cancer and possibly cardiovascular
disease, and may have a better immune response.
taking a multi if you are in one of these groups:
People over 60. Most don't get
the nutrients they need, for a variety of reasons. For instance,
aging itself may make it more difficult to absorb and utilize
certain nutrients. The major problem nutrients for older people
are vitamins D, C, B6, B12, and folic acid, as well as minerals
such as zinc, calcium, and magnesium.
Women of childbearing age. They
need 400 IU daily of folate (the form in supplements is called
folic acid). This B vitamin helps prevent neural tube birth
defects; women need to build up their folate stores at least
several weeks before becoming pregnant. The folic acid in
supplements and fortified foods is better absorbed by the
body than the folate found naturally in food (this is also
true of vitamin B12). In addition, many premenopausal women
do not consume enough iron and can benefit from the amount
in a basic multi.
Pregnant or breast-feeding women
should probably take a multi, but should discuss their special
needs with their doctors.
Strict vegetarians, who eat
no animal products, may not get enough vitamin B12, zinc,
iron, and calcium.
People on weight-loss diets,
as well as heavy drinkers or smokers, are likely to have a
shortfall of vitamins and minerals.
Anyone not eating a balanced diet
(at least five fruits and vegetables a day, as well as whole
grains, low-fat dairy, and small servings of lean meat, poultry,
or fish) may not be getting enough folic acid, B6, and B12.
These B vitamins play a role in lowering homocysteine levels
in the blood and thus may help reduce the risk of heart disease
and, recent studies suggest, Alzheimer's disease and osteoporosis.
Folic acid may also help prevent cervical and colon cancer.
Most multivitamin supplements have 100% of the daily recommended
intake of these Bs.
keep in mind: Even if you take a multi, you still need
to have a healthy, balanced diet. These pills are not magic
bullets. Foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
provide fiber as well as countless beneficial phytochemicals
not found in any pill.
things you should know
A multi need not cost more than a few
cents a day. You don't need a fancy multi. Most store-brand
and generic products are fine.
Most important: Look for 100% of the
Daily Value of the following vitamins: Vitamin D, B1
(thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B12, and folic
acid (another B vitamin). Plus at least 20 micrograms of vitamin
K, for strong bones.
Lower levels of vitamin A. The
multi should contain no more than 5,000 IU of vitamin A (that's
100% of the Daily Value), but at least 40% of this should
be in the form of beta carotene (the label will say, for
instance, 50% as beta carotene under vitamin A). Getting more
than about 6,000 IU of vitamin A itself from food and supplements
increases the risk of fractures in people over 50. Beta carotene
is safe for your bones, though high doses (more than in a
basic multi) may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Look for up to 100% of the Daily Value
of these minerals: copper, zinc, iodine, selenium (preferably
from yeast, but not more than 200 micrograms ), and chromium
(not more than 200 micrograms). Most multis also contain some
Most multis contain 100% of the Daily Value of vitamins C
and E, but this may not be enough to provide their full anti-oxidant
effects, especially for those who are physically active and
exercise regularly. Make sure you get
250 to 500 milligrams of C a day, and that you get the additional
C from fruits and vegetables, if possible. Recent research
on the potential benefits of larger doses of vitamin E has
yielded disappointing or conflicting results.
Calcium is bulky, so a multi will contain only a small amount
of it. Unless you consume enough dairy products, collards
broccoli, fortified OJ, and salmon or sardines (with bones),
you should take a separate calcium
supplement. Everyone needs at least 1,000 milligrams
of calcium a day from food and/or supplements. Women over
50 and men over 65 need 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams a day.
Premenopausal women should look
for 100% of the Daily Value of iron. In contrast, people with
the genetic disorder hemochromatosis (who absorb too much
iron) should avoid supplemental iron. Men and postmenopausal
women need only 45% of the Daily Value, and may be better
off with a multi containing no iron.
More than 100% of the Daily Value isn't
necessarily better. Higher doses of the B vitamins
are okay, but large doses of copper, for instance, can interfere
with the absorption of zinc, and vice versa. And large doses
of vitamin A or zinc, for instance, can be dangerous.
Take your multi with food. If
it contains iron, don't take a calcium supplement at the same
time, since iron interferes with calcium absorption.
Words you don't need to see
listed on the bottle: high-potency, senior formula,
stress formula, starch-free, natural, or slow-release. Added
ingredients such as enzymes, hormones, amino acids, PABA,
ginseng, and other herbs serve no purpose and add to the price.
See our Vitamin Guide
on Vitamin Supplements
articles on Vitamins
Reference Source 98