Are Multivitamins Really Effective?
Multivitamins are the most widely consumed supplements on this planet. In the past few decades their popularity has grown manifold. People feel that by taking multivitamins their health can be improved, poor eating habits can be compensated and risk of chronic diseases can reduce.
What does science have to say about multivitamins? Have a closer look!
Multivitamins- what are they?
Supplements that contain different vitamins and minerals are termed as multivitamins. Since there isn’t any standard, the nutrient composition of multivitamins varies from brand to brand. You must be well aware of the fact that they are available in different forms such as tablets, capsules, syrups and powders. Multivitamins are widely available in pharmacies and even from online retailers.
What vitamins and minerals do multivitamins contain?
There are thirteen vitamins and sixteen minerals that are required for good health. Most of them play a role in enzymatic reactions in the body or work as hormones. The body needs the nutrients for regulation of the processes in the body, reproduction, maintenance and growth.
Most multivitamins contain the essential vitamins and minerals but in varying amounts and forms. They can also contain amino acids, fatty acids and herbs.
You must purchase them from reliable companies as there have been cases of frauds when the supplements have not contained any of the nutrients mentioned on the label.
Do multivitamins prevent heart disease?
One common cause of death worldwide is heart disease. It is believed that taking multivitamins can prevent heart disease but things are still foggy. The results obtained from observational studies on the connection between multivitamins and heart disease are mixed. Some studies state that there is a reduced risk of heart attacks and death. However, other studies have found no effect at all. So, things are not clear whether multivitamin supplements prevent heart disease or not.
Do multivitamins have a cancer link?
You would be surprised to know that where certain studies have found no effect of multivitamins on cancer risk, there are studies that have shown an increased cancer risk. The evidence is mixed in this case too!
Health benefits of multivitamins
A lot of studies have found that multivitamins can improve memory in the elderly. Supplementing with multivitamin is also known to improve moods and this makes perfect sense as many studies have discovered links between poor mood and nutrient deficiency. Some more studies have found that consuming multivitamins can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. But there are also studies that have shown no change in mood.
The leading cause of blindness all over the world is macular degeneration. In one study it has been found that antioxidant vitamins and minerals can slow down the progression of the disease. But there isn’t any evidence that they can prevent the disease from popping up!
Certain evidence says that multivitamins can help reduce cataract risk.
Harmful effects of multivitamins
In nutrition, more is not always better. High doses of some vitamins can really be harmful.
You see, vitamins are of two types:
Water soluble– excess amounts of water soluble vitamins are expelled by the body.
Fat soluble– the body can’t get rid of these and excess amounts strat building up over time.
Fat soluble vitamins include A,E,D and K. Vitamin E and vitamin K are seemingly non-toxic but vitamin A and vitamin D can have toxic effects if consumed in excess. You can read about vitamin D toxicity here!
Smokers should avoid multivitamins with large amounts of vitamin A as they may end up with lung cancer. Pregnant women should also be careful with their vitamin A intake as excess of it can lead to birth defects.
Even minerals in high doses can be harmful, for instance high amount of iron can be dangerous for those who don’t need it.
Multivitamins are meant for whom?
There exists no evidence stating that multivitamins should be consumed by everyone. But there are certain groups that may actually benefit from supplementation and they are:
The elderly– the senior citizens need higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D
Vegans and vegetarians– these guys are prone to a deficiency of vitamin B12 as it is found in animal foods only. They may be deficient in minerals and omega 3s.
Pregnant and nursing women– such women should consult their doctor regarding supplementation.
There are others who are on low-cal diets, or those who don’t eat properly due to lack of appetite that can benefit from multivitamin supplementation.
The bottom line
Go natural! It is better to get your vitamins and minerals from your foods. Opt for a balanced diet so that you don’t land up with a deficiency.
Hope this post was useful!
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