Nancy Dell: Should I be taking a Multi-vitamin?

About 85% of Americans do not eat enough Vitamin E

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1. Are there health benefits to taking a multi-vitamin? I hear conflicting information. 
Barbara, Hadley

According to an expert at Tufts University who spoke last week at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, we do benefit from taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. One reason you hear conflicting information is because the study designs can be flawed.

People who are in the studies and say they take a multi vitamin may take it just a few days a month. Therefore, we see no benefit since really they do not take the supplement often. Research does show a benefit in those who take the multi vitamin at least 21 days out of the month.

So for example, the Physicians’ Health Study is a well designed double blind placebo study. It shows men who take a multi vitamin have a 39% decrease in fatal heart attacks compared to men who do not take a multi.

Here is a second example. About 85% of Americans do not eat enough Vitamin E and we see that their blood level of Vitamin E are way too low. Taking 400 IUs of Vitamin E everyday reduces blindness from Macular Degeneration by 30%. So when we look at well designed studies, we do see benefits to taking a multi vitamin-mineral supplement.

There are 10 nutrients that are generally too low in the American diet.

Nutrient – Effect of Deficiency:

Vitamin A – vision defects
Vitamin C – fatigue, poor wound healing
Vitamin D – bone pain, muscle weakness
Vitamin E- Nerve & eye damage
Vitamin K – nose bleeds
Choline – Liver & muscle damage
Calcium – bone fractures
Magnesium – muscle cramps
Zinc – hair loss
Potassium – fatigue & muscle weakness

So to be at optimal health, we need to get adequate nutrients. Many of us just can’t eat enough to get what we need from food. A multi vitamin-mineral supplement and getting it at least 21 days a month can help. But remember, there is no need for super high doses.