Does it make sense to take a daily vitamin if you’re healthy?
This was the question that a recent article in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of medicine tried to answer. Before I get into the specifics of the article, I should add that I take a multivitamin each day and Vitamin D supplements, in addition to eating fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
However in this article written by Dr. Benjamin Caballero, who works at the John Hopkins School of Public Health, he says that there is no evidence showing that healthy people taking vitamin and mineral supplements will improve their health. Of course, with the caveat that this is does not include pregnant and lactating women and people with a number of health conditions.
Rightly so, Dr. Benjamin Caballero mentions that vitamins do not replace the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. This is likely because fresh fruits and vegetables contain a lot of other things that aren’t in vitamins, and they provide calories that aren’t laden down with fat and salt.
He also mentioned a meta-analysis (or combined analysis of many clinical trials) which showed that vitamin E supplements may slightly increase the rate mortality. More effective measures for people who want to improve their health include eating a healthier diet, by cutting back on fatty and salty foods and adding fish, fresh vegetables and fruits and some nuts to your diet.
So why do I take vitamin supplements?
I take Vitamin D supplements as more and more research is showing that a surprising number of Americans, adults and children, are Vitamin D deficient, and that Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a number of medical conditions such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, and well, . . . this list goes on and on. In fact, the minimum Vitamin D requirements may be upped from 400 to 500 IU a day for adults to 800 to 1,000 for adults. (For kids the minimum Vitamin D daily required intake is now at 400 IU instead of the 200 IU used less than a decade ago). You shouldn’t exceed 2,000 IU of Vitamin D from all sources for ages 1 year and above, so if I take 400 to 800 IU of Vitamin D a day then I’m probably ok. Although vitamin D is technically a “vitamin”, it is actually a powerful hormone which regulates a number of processes in the human body as there are vitamin D receptors on a lot of different types of cells.
What about the Bausch & Lomb PreserVision vitamin?
This vitamin is recommended for people with certain symptoms of macular degeneration in the intermediate and advanced stages. A scientific study (the AREDS study), showed that this combination of vitamins is clinically effective in slowing the progression of macular degeneration. However, you should discuss with your doctor the possible benefit of taking this vitamin as it does contain very high levels of certain vitamins, such as Vitamin E and Zinc. There isn’t any proof that taking this vitamin will prevent macular degeneration in people predisposed to get this eye disease, however, future studies may clarify this position.
If you are healthy, don’t have have any medical conditions and are not pregnant or lactating, then there isn’t evidence indicating that you should take a multi-vitamin each day. Though in the future recommendations may change, especially with regards to Vitamin D. Right now though, eating fresh fruits and vegetables each day is probably the best thing you can do for your health.
Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine
October 2010 vol. 77 10 656-657