Everybody takes multivitamins. But do multivitamins work? And do you need to take them? This guide will answer these questions.
DO MULTIVITAMINS WORK
According to a research, multivitamins have been in vogue since its advent in the 1940s. The sale of multivitamins makes up about 40% of the sale of all health supplements. That’s how much people depend on multivitamins.
What are multivitamins?
Multivitamins are common dietary supplements composed of various vitamins and minerals. There are no standard amounts of vitamins and minerals that a multivitamin must contain. So this varies with different brands. These are available in different forms like tablets, pills, injections and powders. Multivitamins are often called MVMs, multis or multiples. People believe that they can compensate for unhealthy eating habits and improve health. Some even say that they could reduce the risk of various diseases.
The composition of multivitamins
Multivitamins usually contain vitamins like A, C, B1, B2, B3, B12, E etc. They also contain various minerals like zinc, iron, potassium, iodine and many more. The great thing about multivitamins is that they come in different varieties. They are even tailored for genders and ages.
So, a pregnant woman could have a specific kind of multivitamin whereas an older person would have another. Some might have more amounts of vitamin D or less of iron as required. Some might even contain antioxidants. Multivitamins could also contain herbs, amino acids or fatty acids sometimes. This is what makes is usable to a wide range of people.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t specify a particular composition for multivitamins. Yet, in the United States, multivitamins must contain at least 3 vitamins and minerals to be labelled as such.
Multivitamins – perception and reality
So are all the preconceptions about using multivitamins true? How much of it is a myth and how much backed by science? Let’s find out.
- Multivitamins for brain power
Reports say that multivitamins can help in improving the functioning of brain substantially. A study found that intake of multivitamins helps to increase the memory in older people. It has a positive effect in different sections of the brain, according to research. There are reports that multivitamins can be a mood enhancer. It could provide people with a better mood and also reduce the tendency of depression in people.
Yet another study reports no such positive changes in mood.
- Multivitamins to combat blindness
Preventable blindness in children is caused due to vitamin A deficiency. It can also cause severe infections leading to diseases and even death. The deficiency of vitamin A in pregnant women is even more dangerous. It may lead to night blindness and even death says the World Health Organisation (WHO). Another leading cause of blindness is Macular degeneration. It is related to ageing. It damages the sharp and central vision and causes blindness. This can be combated by taking multivitamins, as per studies. Multivitamins rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals are more effective in decreasing its progression. As of now, there is no evidence to back multivitamins acting as a preventive against this. But, some studies show that multivitamins could help to reduce the risk of cataract. Cataract is another leading cause of blindness worldwide.
- Multivitamins – cancer preventives?
There are different opinions on the use of multivitamins to reduce the risk of cancer in humans. There are studies which suggest that there is no effect of using multivitamins on cancer. There are yet other studies which mention an increased risk of cancer in certain people who take multivitamins regularly. Some say regular intake of multivitamins may have a positive effect of reducing the risk of cancer. But this effect is more pronounced in men when compared to women.
In short, the risk of cancer may or may not be reduced by regular intake of multivitamins. But the research and its results are not yet concrete.
- Multivitamins – heart healthy?
Cardiovascular or heart diseases are a leading cause of death all over the world. Diseases include heart attacks, chest pains or strokes. There are other conditions as well, that affect the heart muscles leading to chronic diseases.
People often are led to believe that using multivitamins regularly can reduce the risk of heart diseases. But, research does not entirely support this claim. Certain studies lead to believe that multivitamins may lead to a reduced risk of heart diseases. But even more studies corroborate that both are not related at all. There is little to no effect of taking multivitamins on heart health. To conclude, the evidence is mixed as are the opinions.
How relevant are multivitamins actually?
There is a lot of evidence to support that you can have healthy food items which meet the vitamin and mineral needs of the body way better than multivitamins.
Excess intake of multivitamins may also prove to be a hindrance than a help. Yes, taking an adequate amount of multivitamins can help, but only in prescribed dosages. Research shows that excess iron in the body can be extremely harmful, even leading to death. Too much of vitamin A is not good for bone health. Increased intake of vitamin E might raise the risks of heart failure. It could also lead to premature deaths. At the same time, there are other reports like that of calcium supplements which lower the risk of death.
Of course, none of this means you should completely stop taking supplements or multivitamins. For people with specific medical conditions like anaemia, iron supplements are necessary. Doctors also recommend taking folic acid and vitamin D supplements during pregnancy. The idea is to just be aware of how much of multivitamins you really need. So talk to experts and get a proper prescription before you commit to multivitamins.
Because there is no standard nutrient composition for a multivitamin, make sure you are taking that particular kind of multivitamin that you need. Also, most multivitamins are those that should be taken at least once or twice every day. Keep in mind to check the prescription as well as the labels to find out about recommended dosages.
Most multivitamins are available in medical shops or pharmacies. Just have an idea of what is good for you rather than going by ads or unnecessary suggestions. Stay healthy!