You may have read in my earlier posts that I do not often recommend supplements, especially when they promise some type of exercise related benefit like “muscle preservation.” However, I do recommend that people take multivitamins.
Although it’s best to get all your nutrients in food form, because we absorb them much better that way (and that means we’re eating healthy food that has a whole gamut of incredible health implications), it can be really hard to get in everything that you need, even if you have a healthy diet.
Most American’s diets are deficient in some nutrients. So taking a multivitamin helps you fill those gaps, resulting in more energy and a reduced risk of getting colds/flus and infections. In the long term, men can benefit from an 8% reduction in overall cancer risk, according to a study out of Harvard. This is a big reduction just for taking a pill, and especially beneficial for firefighters who already have an increased risk of developing cancer. For women, iron supplementation may be needed to avoid anemia and, for those who could become pregnant, taking in folic acid is extremely important to avoid birth defects. As you can see, men and women have specific needs, so don’t take your spouse’s multivitamin!
As people age they have a reduced ability to absorb nutrients so supplementing with vitamins becomes even more important. Sometimes a case of dementia is actually just the symptoms of a nutrient deficiency. Older adults should take a multivitamin that is specifically for older adults (can be in shake form).
One important thing to know about micronutrients (vitamins and minerals that are in our food and also in pill form), is that more is not always better. Based on research, there are recommendations made about the amount that should be taken in for optimal functioning and to avoid disease. More commonly people are not getting in enough, however it is possible to take in too much (by overdosing on supplements) and the consequences could be potentially fatal. For example, the leading cause of accidental death in children 6 and under is iron overdose. So stick to the recommendations and make sure you are taking a multivitamin that is gender and age specific (and never give a child an adult multivitamin)!
If you’re not on my list to get more health tips like these, enter your name and email below.