Dropping in to your local pharmacy or supermarket, you’ll find shelves stocked full with multivitamins - some may be labeled as gender specific, others promoted for particular health concerns. With so much choice available, it’s hard not to be swayed by the health claims of multivitamins. But before you start weighing up which brand might be best, or how much money to spend on a month’s supply of multivitamins, find out more about these over-the-counter supplements.
Discover the facts behind four common claims about multivitamins:
- Taking a daily multivitamin makes you healthier
Vitamins are essential to the healthy functioning of your body, but taking a multivitamin supplement isn’t necessarily going to improve your health. A vitamin supplement is likely to help if you are found to have a deficiency of a certain vitamin, but there is little evidence to suggest that taking a daily multivitamin will keep illnesses at bay or give your overall health a boost. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Lead Dietician, Kristy Pemberton says, “People who are generally in good health do not need to take vitamins unless they are pregnant, when their doctor will advise on any supplements required. Elderly people should also be screened for vitamin deficiencies every 6 – 12 months.”
It's also important to remember that, with the exception of vitamin D, which is primarily derived from sun exposure, the foods you eat should be able to provide you with the vitamins you need on a daily basis. Multivitamins are designed to supplement your diet and not to replace the food you eat, for getting the vitamins your body needs. Instead of reaching for a multivitamin, a more advisable first step is to evaluate your diet with your doctor or a nutritionist to see what changes you could make that would benefit your health.
- There’s no harm in taking a multivitamin
While it’s rare to overdose on multivitamins, getting too much of a particular vitamin can cause adverse side effects. All vitamins have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which details the recommended amount required each day by the body. Taking amounts in excess of the RDA, particularly on a long-term basis, could trigger symptoms of different severity. Too much vitamin A, for instance, could cause dizziness or headaches, while an excessive amount of vitamin C can result in digestive problems.
Similarly, people with chronic medical conditions should seek advice from their doctor before taking supplements due to possible interactions with some prescribed medicines, some medications can also affect the way the body absorbs vitamins.
- Expensive multivitamins are better
A higher price doesn’t necessarily indicate a better quality multivitamin product. Instead of checking the price, look at the information and ingredients on the back of the label. This will tell you what the supplement contains, in what amounts, and what percentage of the RDA it represents.
- You don’t need a prescription to buy multivitamins
This is correct; however, you should consult your doctor before taking multivitamins or any other over-the-counter vitamin or nutrient supplement. This is particularly important if you already take prescribed medications, as supplements may interact with them, affecting their absorbency or effectiveness and causing other side effects.
If you are thinking of taking a multivitamin, discuss it with your doctor first. It could be that taking a supplement will be of no benefit to your health, and that an alternative course of action, such as dietary changes, or another form of treatment will give you better results. If your doctor agrees that a supplement would be beneficial, he or she will be able to advise you on which type you should take, what dosage and for how long.