Patients often ask if they should start taking multivitamins. Though I typically deal with supplementation on a case-by-case basis, there are a few key points I always address.
- Vitamins and minerals make up the large category of micronutrientsour bodies require for adequate growth and development.
- The word multivitamin can be confusing. When doctors, dietitians, or the average consumer uses the term "multivitamin" they likely mean a multivitamin andmultimineral supplement. In other words, it contains everything from vitamin C to Calcium. Most "once daily" supplements contain both vitamins and minerals.
- There are two kinds of vitamins. This distinction matters because of how we metabolize them.
- B vitamins (includes thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate/folic acid, B12, etc.)
- vitamin C
Fat solublevitamins include:
- vitamins A, D, E, and K
- calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, sodium, etc.
As a dietitian, I advise eatingmicronutrients rather than supplementingthem. Consuming a variety of food is far and away the best way to meet your body's needs because food provides a number of benefits that a pill never will.
- First, micronutrients are typically more bio-available in their natural environment. This means our body has an easier time absorbing and utilizing nutrients from food than from supplements.
- Also, foods offer benefits such as phytochemicals and antioxidants that supplements cannot. All the nutrition research in the world can't predict the protective effects certain nutrients may have in combination with each other in a given food, from a given growing region, in a particular season, etc.
With all that said, there are certain groups of people who can benefit from micronutrient supplementation. Check out one of these sites for a list of these groups- Mayo Clinicor the American Dietetic Association.
Dietary Supplements Q & Afrom nutrition.gov touches on choosing a supplement and determining its safety.
Above all, when in doubt consult your doctor and/or dietitian before beginning supplementation.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.