a year ago

Multivitamins: When do we need it?

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It would not be an overstatement to say that most households in Bangladesh have one thing in common: a bottle of multivitamins in their medicine box. 

It is commonly prescribed, and people can buy it even without a prescription. The perception is that taking multivitamins daily will be beneficial for our health.
There is a lot of research on the health benefits of multivitamins. Does a daily does creates a significantly positive impact? 

Jury is still out there. But there is no major harm either, at least not according to research, unless we are overdoing it. Dr. Vivek Cherian, Internal Medicine Specialist from Illinois, argued that the potential benefits of once-daily multivitamins are enough to suggest taking them, and he advises his patients accordingly. 

US Nutritionist Dawn Lerman highlighted several advantages of taking daily multivitamins. They provide important nutrients for our bodies and can be quite useful for people suffering from stress and insomnia. Even if these people have a balanced diet, their physical or mental issues may prevent proper absorption, causing deficiency.  

The general idea, however, is that if our diet is healthy, i.e. containing adequate fruits, vegetables, proteins and other essential elements, the need for a multivitamin is non-existent. Even if we take it, there is no real benefit. 

However, how many of us can confidently say that our diet covers all of that? For many people, a daily diet is not nutritious enough, so a multivitamin may be needed to compensate for the deficiency.

Certain groups, e.g. elderly people, also need daily multivitamins due to a fall in their absorptive capacity. 

Pregnant women require extra iron and folic acid. Patients suffering from gastrointestinal pathology may also have poor absorption. 

Additionally, some medications can interfere with vitamin absorption. One example is omeprazole or similar drugs, which can cause vitamin B-12 deficiency in the long run. 
Diuretics, prescribed for high blood pressure, can lead to low levels of some minerals. People with specific food choices, e.g., vegetarians or vegans, may have vitamin B12 deficiency due to a lack of animal food. 

US registered dietician Kate Patton highlighted that people may take multivitamins for different reasons. Some may want it to cover up for a missing food element, e.g., fruits and vegetables. Others may take it to boost the benefits of antioxidants. Others really have a pathological cause for which they were prescribed multivitamins.  

When choosing our multivitamins, we must ensure that it has some essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D, as we cannot cover the daily requirement from the food only. Vitamin A, B, C, E and K are also important to have in there. Among the minerals, calcium, magnesium, and zinc are good to have. For pregnant women, iron and folic acid are a must.

Ultimately, whether someone wants to take a multivitamin or not comes down to personal choice. This should be discussed with the doctor as well. At the end of the day, if the daily meals are enough to fulfil our nutritional requirements, a multivitamin is not a necessity. 

So, the motto should be “to get it from the food first!” But it is true that most of us cannot do it, so we should consider getting a multivitamin. 

A note of caution, we need to be careful about the daily requirement of the vitamins and choose the drug accordingly. Many multivitamins are boosting mega-doses, which is far beyond what we need. Those products can cause overdose and toxicity. So we should be careful when choosing our multivitamins. 

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