Adding multivitamins to your health routine – does it really make a difference?

GUEST POST BY HELEN SANDERS FROM HEALTH AMBITION

 

What are multivitamins?

You see them all the time in the pharmacy (and more recently being plugged by celebrities on TV), but what exactly are multivitamins? Well, there’s no specific composition for multivitamins, as each brand has its own unique formula, but they all commonly contain the essential vitamins and minerals, along with some non-essential ones.

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Taking multivitamins – are there any risks?

Typically, if you take multivitamins the way they are supposed to be taken, there are no risks to your health.

So, what’s the right way to use a multivitamin?

You should always follow the instructions on the label and be aware of the quantity of vitamins you are putting into your body. Our bodies only need a small amount of each vitamin and this requirement is usually met by eating healthy, balanced meals.

If you eat relatively healthy foods, but are lacking in some vitamins (perhaps due to dietary restrictions), a multivitamin would be beneficial. However, a multivitamin should never be used as a nutrient replacement. It should only be used to fill in the gaps in your diet.

The good news is that you cannot overdose on vitamins that are water-soluble because your body gets rid of any excess amount. However, fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A and D) are potentially harmful if taken in large doses.

It’s best to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have a medical condition.

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What are the benefits of multivitamins?

What does the research on multivitamins show? The findings are mixed, but the risks are low and the potential benefits are high.

Here are some of the positive findings…

Multivitamins protect your heart

We all want to maintain a healthy heart. One proven way to do so is taking multivitamins. A study showed multivitamin use is associated with a lower risk of heart attack. Another showed that it was linked to a lower risk of heart disease in women.

This protection is due to the antioxidant effects of vitamins. The antioxidants in multivitamins neutralise the free radicals which react negatively with lipoproteins and cholesterol.  This means that they prevent fatty lesions from clogging up blood vessels. However, it’s not just the antioxidants in multivitamins that protect the heart. Niacin (or vitamin B3) and inositol also help by raising HDL (“good cholesterol”) and lowering total cholesterol, respectively.

Multivitamins protect your eyes

Multivitamins also offer protection to your eyes. Studies have found they reduce the risk of cataracts, a common condition in older adults. They may also be beneficial in preventing macular degeneration (an incurable eye disease causing vision loss), but more research is needed.

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Macular degeneration mainly affects central vision, causing “blind spots” directly ahead. Source: AllAboutVision.com

Multivitamin benefits offer protection against cancer

With carcinogens in everything from our cosmetics to our processed foods, cleaning products and even the air we breathe, cancer is a real concern. Multivitamins may be able to protect you from the potentially deadly disease.

Studies find that multivitamins lower the risk of certain cancers. One study found that taking multivitamins was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in women. Another study found that multivitamin use lowered cancer risk in men with a history of cancer by 27%. The study suggests that daily multivitamin use can prevent 68,000 cancers annually.

Multivitamins boost cognition

Several studies show that taking multivitamins can boost memory and improve performance on tasks requiring attention, accuracy and multi-tasking abilities.

They also help to improve mood and alertness, while lowering stress levels. This is especially significant, as depression is on the rise in North America (and we could all do with less stress in our lives). And of course, when you’re in a good mood, various aspects of your life will improve. For example, research has shown that a good mood is linked to better performance when solving difficult logistics issues. This can be really useful in the workplace!

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Multivitamins prevent birth defects

When you’re pregnant, it’s so important to watch what you put into your body. That’s because whatever you consume affects not only you, but your baby, too. Taking multivitamins has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects in newborns, due to their folic acid content. You may think that taking a high-dosage folic acid supplement would be sufficient, but research shows multivitamins containing folic acid are actually more effective.

Multivitamins also contain iron and vitamins A, C and D—all of which are needed during pregnancy.

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The Verdict

Although more research is needed, studies have found that there are numerous health benefits of taking multivitamins and there are little risks when used correctly.

 


Article by Chief Editor at Health Ambition, Helen Sanders: proud mother of two who’s passionate about nutrition and ways to live healthier with more energy!