Over the last few months, there has been a significant debate as to whether multivitamins are actually effective or not. According to a recent editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, new trials have failed to demonstrate any benefit of multivitamins and that most mineral or vitamin supplements have failed to prove any clear benefit and in fact, may even be harmful.
With all this new research being presented, people are now questioning whether vitamins are just a scam, sugar pills so to say, since there really is no hard evidence to prove that any benefits can be derived from their consumption. Media platforms like Forbes, NBC and CBC are all running news reports telling people to stop using multivitamins and that the case is completely closed for them since they offer no health benefits.
So should we just accept these claims and stop taking multivitamins together? Or should we decide to look at certain facts before we jump to conclusions? I vote for the latter and I will explain why.
There is no doubt that there are shelves and shelves of vitamin and mineral supplements in stores. Consumers today have so many options that it is difficult to choose the product that would be most effective. The most important thing to keep in mind is to ensure that you are eating healthy. That comes way before jumping into the bandwagon of buying multivitamins and supplements. According to Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D. and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development, “nutritionists recommend food first because foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals and also dietary factors that are not found in a vitamin or mineral supplement.”
However, don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. A large number of us today try our best to eat healthy foods but still remain deficient in some areas. That is where multivitamins and supplements come in. As long as we remember that these are supplements, not replacements for food, we will stay on the right track. Steve Mister, the CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition advises caution with respect to giving up on vitamins altogether and says, “it’s a shame for consumers that the authors refuse to recognize the real-life need for vitamin and mineral supplementation, living in a fairy-tale world that makes the inaccurate assumption that we’re all eating healthy diets and getting everything we need from food alone,”
Let’s now discuss the question of whether the available vitamins are merely placebo or actually work. It is possible that common multivitamins do not work. That is because some vitamins and minerals actually inhibit absorption when taken together. Secondly, fat-soluble vitamins which include Vitamin A, E, D and K, carotenoids, coenzyme Q10 and some other micronutrients need presence of fat to be absorbed well. Lastly, some vitamins and minerals have energizing effect on the body while others having a relaxing effect.
That is why it is recommended that instead of taking an all-in-one common multivitamin, you opt for a formulation that is more balanced and avoids the negative effects of interaction between vitamins and minerals if taken together. For instance, calcium and iron inhibit absorption of each other; similarly calcium inhibits the absorption of zinc. Vitamins that are grouped according to the synergy between them are more effective. There are products in the market that do offer such combinations. For example the Balanced Trio Complex offers an effective blend of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fish oil, CoQ10, Cal/Mag and herbal/fruit. Such products are expected to provide better results when it comes to providing additional supplements to your body.
The decision to take or not to take multivitamins is totally yours. However, your decision should be based on facts and not sweeping statements being passed around in the media. You and your family physicians and healthcare providers know what you need and what supplements you require to remain healthy and energetic, not those making claims that the case for vitamins is now closed.