Nearly half of Americans take a daily multivitamin1, but is it necessary?
Despite all the claims you might read on the bottle, most studies have found no significant benefit from taking a daily multivitamin to protect the heart or brain, or prevent cancer2. For otherwise healthy individuals eating a balanced diet, you might just be swallowing away your money.
With that being said, sometimes our lifestyles, dietary restrictions, or phases of life might warrant the need for vitamin supplementation.
Read on to learn what key vitamins you might consider adding to your routine, and why.
Vitamin D - Known as the "sunshine vitamin," Vitamin D is vital for strong bones, immune system support, and overall well-being. Spending time outdoors and consuming foods like salmon, fortified dairy, and egg yolks can help, but a large percentage of Americans don't get enough vitamin D through their diet alone. Particularly if you live in places with less sunlight during the winter, you might consider supplementing your intake of vitamin D.
Vitamin C - This powerful antioxidant aids in immune function, collagen production, and wound healing. While citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers are rich sources, vitamin C supplements can be useful during times when your immune system needs a boost. For many families, this time of year involves going back to school where kids will have increased exposure to others, and perhaps a dangerous combination of higher levels of stress with lower hours of sleep. If your family's routines are changing this fall, you may want to up your Vitamin C intake.
Vitamin B Complex - B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folate, are essential for energy production, nerve function, and cell metabolism. A diet rich in lean meats, whole grains, and leafy greens can meet most people's B vitamin needs, but many people may be at risk of deficiency based on their diet or life phase. For example, vitamin B12 is primarly only found in animal foods, so those who have a plant-based diet may require supplementation. Additionally, pregnant women are advised to supplement with Folate (vitamin B9), as it helps with proper development of the baby and reduces the risk of birth defects. Older adults may also want to supplement, as Vitamin B12 absorption can decrease as we age.
Vitamin A - Vital for vision, skin health, and immune function, vitamin A can be obtained through foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Many people who live on-the-go lifestyles or have picky eaters at home may find it harder to meet their vitamin A needs. However, it is also important to note, excessive intake can be harmful and lead to headaches, fatigue, and nausea, so supplements should be used cautiously and with medical guidance.
Vitamin E - As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps protect cells from damage and supports skin health. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are rich sources. Vitamin E deficiencies are relatively rare, however people with conditions that affect the ability to digest or absorb fat - such as cystic fibrosis and Chron's disease - may consider supplementation.
Vitamin K - Essential for blood clotting and bone health, vitamin K is found in leafy greens, broccoli, and meats. Given it reduces the risk of bone fractures, increasing evidence suggests postmenopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis and both male and female athletes could benefit from vitamin K supplementation.
While obtaining nutrients from a diverse and balanced diet should be the goal, supplements can be beneficial in specific cases. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle, make informed choices, and always seek professional advice to ensure you are providing your body with the right vitamins in the right amounts.
Footnotes and Sources
1. HoustonMethodist.org, September 8, 2022
2. RealSimple.com, May 5, 2023