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What are multi-vitamins?

Nearly half of adults in the U.S. and 70% of older adults ages 71+ take a vitamin; about one-third of them use a comprehensive multivitamin pill. But is this truly a necessity? In terms of multivitamins, the most popular types include the basic and main type. The first one contains fifty percent dietary Vitamin A, with the main one containing the other forty percent. Both contain Vitamin D. The main active vitamin in this type of supplement is Vitamin D, which has many benefits.

There are certainly diseases caused by a lack of specific nutrients in the diet. Classic examples include scurvy (from a lack of vitamin C), beriberi (vitamin B1), pellagra (vitamin B3), and rickets (vitamin D). But these conditions are rare in the U.S. and other developed countries where there is generally more access to a wide range of foods, some of which are fortified with vitamins. Individual vitamin supplementation may also be essential in certain cases, such as a deficiency caused by long-term poor nutrition or malabsorption caused by the body’s digestive system not functioning properly.

This page specifically discusses the use of multivitamins, which typically contain about 26 different vitamins and minerals, and often provide 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of these micronutrients. We will explore situations that a multivitamin may be health-promoting, as well as if there is a benefit or harm in taking extra nutrients from a pill if the diet is already adequate.

Who Could be Prone to a Nutrient Deficiency?

A multivitamin may be of little or no value to those who consume a healthy diet. The majority of the elements required for optimum health should be included in a diet that contains a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and healthy fats. 

However, not everyone is able to maintain a healthy diet. According to standards established by the National Academy of Medicine, some Americans do not receive adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. For example, less than 90% of Americans ingest enough vitamin D and E from food alone, which is below the estimated average requirement. 

Reasons to use a multivitamin:

  • I am eating a limited diet, or my appetite is poor so that I am eating less than usual.
  • I am following a restricted diet for longer than one week. This could be prescribed such as a liquid diet after a surgical procedure, or a self-imposed diet such as on with the goal of weight loss.
  • I have a condition that reduces my body’s ability to absorb nutrients (celiac disease, ulcerative colitis) or have undergone surgery that interferes with the normal absorption of nutrients (gastric bypass surgery, Whipple procedure).
  • I temporarily have increased nutrient needs, such as being pregnant.
  • I’m very busy and just can’t eat a balanced diet every day.

There is still much to learn about the ideal vitamin and mineral intakes to fend off chronic diseases. There is a need for more extensive research into this relationship. There is no dispute regarding the significance of multivitamins when dietary intake is insufficient to satisfy nutritional needs. Since some study has shown no benefit or even adverse effects when taking extra vitamins and minerals, the question of whether vitamins are necessary when the diet is sufficient to prevent nutrient deficiencies is being debated.

It’s critical to keep in mind that a multivitamin cannot, under any circumstances, substitute for a nutritious, well-balanced diet.  A multivitamin primarily serves the function of bridging nutritional gaps and offers only a small sample of the enormous variety of beneficial nutrients and substances naturally present in diet. It is unable to provide the fiber, flavor, and enjoyment of foods that are essential to a healthy diet. Multivitamins, however, can be crucial when dietary intake is insufficient to satisfy nutritional needs.

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