The topmost questions on the mind of all my patients are “I am getting so tired these days, doctor do you think that I should take a multivitamin?” and “I am taking these multivitamins which I got from the US, do you think it’s good enough for me to have?”
These are just 2 such questions but trust me, I get loads of such questions on Multivitamins. Based on these questions, I decided I should talk about it in my blog and present the facts on the matter.
Let us first understand
What is multivitamin?
If I just try to understand the word in literal terms, a multivitamin is a supplement that contains more than one vitamin. But is it just vitamins? Certainly not. Multivitamin is a supplement that contains many vitamins and essential minerals which helps you fight against different nutritional deficiencies and their symptoms.
Who actually needs a multivitamin?
- You need a multivitamin if you are not able to get adequate nutrition from your diet.
- You need a multivitamin if you are severely deficient in different nutrients as detected in your blood reports
- You need a multivitamin if you are looking for micronutrients for specific symptoms.
Apart from this, there are other population groups as well which might need a multivitamin in addition to a variety of foods in their diet.
- Pregnant women
- During pregnancy, consumption of multivitamins reduces the risk of birth defects in the foetus.
- There are different kinds of research which are done taking multivitamins into consideration but since multivitamins consist of various vitamins and minerals, we don’t exactly know which nutrient is giving the maximum benefits.
- Folic acid perhaps is the most important micronutrient but doctors anyways give it in a completely separate form so talk to your healthcare professional before starting on any multivitamin.
- Senior citizens
- People over the age of 65 are generally low on B- vitamins, vitamin D, iron and magnesium.
- Supplementing senior citizens with a multivitamin can definitely help in reducing their nutritional deficiencies to a great extent.
- People who are on different food restrictions
- People who are on a gluten-free diet are usually low on calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
- Vegan people are usually low in calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
- People who are on low carb diet are usually low in calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and vitamin E
Multivitamin in these cases will help in overcoming these nutritional deficiencies.
- People who have undergone bariatric surgery
- During bariatric surgery, size of the stomach is reduced which reduces nutrient absorption which can further lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Even after taking a multivitamin, nutrient absorption is not very high but this will be much better than not taking a supplement and remain extremely nutritionally deficient
The above is related specifically for people with some health issues. Let us now look at the general population! Does the general population need a multivitamin and what can be the possible benefits?
- Multivitamins can help in increasing the quality of life
- Multivitamins can help in reducing mood swings
- Multivitamins can help in reducing complications related to eyes
These are some points which researches have come up with however nothing is claimed so far.
Normally what I have seen is that when people are taking multivitamin they are okay to substitute it for a balanced diet but a multivitamin is a SUPPLEMENT and not a SUBSTITUTE.
Let’s understand about how to select a multivitamin for you.
Your healthcare professional can suggest you one but, you should always know how to pick up one for yourself!
Consider the following points when you buy a multivitamin
- Choose a multivitamin that contains close to your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes a particular multivitamin crosses much more than your RDA per day.
- Excess of potassium at one go on an empty stomach can lead to elevated potassium levels in the body which can affect your heart rhythm that is why your potassium in a multivitamin should always be limited to 99 mg.
- Magnesium in your multivitamin should be limited to 350 mg because higher doses of magnesium in the body can lead to diarrhoea and other stomach issues.
- Excess of calcium in your multivitamin might increase the risk of kidney stones, and too much total calcium can result in hypercalcemia in the body.
B. If a multivitamin supplement is only having vitamins and minerals then its fine to pick it up but usually this doesn’t happen. A single multivitamin is full of special ingredients which can put a body into negative balance hence avoid taking multivitamins which has too many extra ingredients.
C. I have seen my patients doing this a lot that they get confused between the pill and serving.
For example: A multivitamin pack might mention that it contains 300 mg of vitamin C per serving. When it is said so, please understand that a serving does not necessarily mean that 1 pill equals 1 serving. Serving completely depends upon how the company is depicting it. It could mean a whole pack is 300 mg.
D. I have seen this quite often that many people are usually only deficient in one or 2 nutrients in such cases taking a multivitamin is not a very good option. Pick up those nutritional supplements only which are on the lower side.
Hence, it is always good to take Vitamins after you speak to your doctor. Do not indulge in self- medication.
You might need a multivitamin but, it is not necessary that everyone might need it.