Multivitamins: How Do They Actually Work?
When it comes to multivitamins, most of us have the attitude that they can’t hurt. Or, can they?
Contrary to popular belief, there is actually quite a lot to consider when choosing the right multivitamin, and some can actually cause more harm than good. Before simply assuming that a multivitamin will be beneficial, you’ll need to understand what questions to ask and where to find the answers.
What is a Multivitamin, Exactly?
First and foremost, let’s take a quick look at what multivitamins generally contain, and how they work in the body. There are 13 vitamins and more than 16 minerals essential to human health. A good quality multivitamin should provide most (if not all) of these essential nutrients, and many will also contain health-promoting herbs, amino, and fatty acids.
Multivitamins are either made from real, whole food sources or are chemically (synthetically) derived. Studies have shown that the human body tends to absorb and assimilate multivitamins from whole foods more effectively, although a high quality, synthetic brands can also work well. In an ideal world, we would easily meet all of our body’s nutritional needs through a diet rich in nutrient dense foods, but we all know that this isn’t always the case.
How Do I Know if I Can Benefit From a Multi-Vitamin?
The good news is that there are several main considerations to take into account, and from there you can easily make an informed decision about if you should take a multi, and which is right for you.
Age and Gender
Most multivitamins target a specific population such as children, adults, men, women, seniors, etc. The reason for this is that each of these groups has specific and important nutrient needs, and it is a good idea to purchase a product that is tailored to prevent and treat deficiencies that pertain (or could pertain) to you.
History of High Exposure to Toxins
If you have a history of high (or relatively high) exposure to toxins in the environment (living a highly polluted city or where water quality is poor, for example), those found in processed foods or toxic hygiene products and household cleaners, you will likely benefit from a multivitamin high in antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals.
If you have a dietary history high in processed and packaged foods that has included very few fresh veggies and fruits, boosting your body’s overall nutrient levels with a multivitamin is probably a good idea (along with improving your diet). With time, ongoing nutrient deficiencies can lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis (vitamin K2 and D3 deficiencies), anemia (iron deficiency) or neural tube defects (folate).
Special Populations (pregnant, elderly, vegans, etc)
For those that fit into a population with even more specific/special needs such as the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding women, or vegans and vegetarians, you are even more likely to benefit from a good quality multi vitamin.
How Do I Choose The Right Multivitamin?
After considering the points discussed above, you’ll need to choose which product is best for your body. For example, a vegan or vegetarian should get a multi vitamin that offers plenty of vitamin B12, or those living in cold climates with little sun should choose a multi that provides vitamin D. If you suspect that you might have certain deficiencies, it’s not a bad idea to get a recommendation from a trusted Nutritionist or doctor.
Be sure to research the multivitamin brand before purchasing, and take into account how the product is produced, potency testing and quality control.
If you’re in the market for a holistic vitamin, browse Vitamin World. We offer several highly rated and nutritionally specific choices for men, women, seniors and athletes; our best selling is our multi vitamin “ultra” line.
This line is tailored to meet the needs of each individual, and also provide the mineral cofactors necessary for proper nutrient absorption, along with key herbs and antioxidants.
Last but certainly not least, remember that your multivitamin should not be a replacement for a diet rich in healthy foods. While they can definitely provide extra nutritional support, the body will always best absorb vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds through actual foods. Let your multi vitamin be just an extra added bonus.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.