By dotFIT experts
on October 15, 2008
At worst, vitamin and mineral supplementation acts as insurance against short and long-term dietary lapses, and guesswork in nutrient intake, including the ability to define the optimal diet. At best, using valid science to increase the nutrient content of available and typical food intakes may yield optimal functioning for an extended period, as compared to a non-supplemented state. More...

Do I need to take a multivitamin?

Do I need to take a multivitamin?

The short answer is yes. Now let's discuss why. You’ve probably heard for years that you do not need to take supplements because you can get everything you need by eating a healthy diet. The biggest obstacle to this approach is that no one consistently eats a healthy diet or can define what a healthy diet is. This is highlighted by the fact that the scientific community “changes the rules”. Even after decades of educating and prodding, no one really seems committed to eating as they should. The flip side implied by the old advice is that you should supplement if your diet isn’t perfect. Study after study has shown that Americans do not get all of the fresh fruits and veggies they need, and we fail to get the whole grains and fiber that augment health. But before you beat yourself up, realize that eating "right" is not an easy thing to do. To buy, prepare and serve a wide variety of foods on a daily basis is a lot of work. Today's fast paced lifestyle and other societal factors have forever changed the family dynamic. Let's look at some of the common obstacles to acquiring complete and adequate nutrition:

  • insufficient food/calorie intake
  • increased needs that are not met by diet alone, including age-related needs
  • dislike or avoidance of essential food groups
  • low body fat maintenance
  • variables of actual nutrient content of food
  • unable to move enough (due to sedentary lifestyles) to be able eat the number of calories required for proper nutrition and still maintain a healthy weight
  • low sun exposure
  • inability to define the perfect diet

Most dietary recommendations are based upon a 2000 calorie diet. The sad news is that the majority of women today will gain weight on that many or fewer calories, so in order to maintain ideal health fewer calories have to be eaten. This makes achievement of these base recommendations unlikely. The historical goal of nutrient intake recommendations has been to prevent deficiency syndromes and provide a margin of safety at the same time. The scientific community is finding out that higher nutrient intake can have a preventive impact on the development of chronic disease and improve health. Also, keep in mind that nutrient intake recommendations are consistently increasing. Today’s recommended intake, as acknowledged by health and medical organizations, is significantly greater than what they were even 15 years ago. Remember, back then we were still being told we didn't need to supplement.  In 2002, in a startling reversal of their long-held position, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finally advised all adults to take a multiple vitamin as insurance to prevent deficiency disease and to overcome marginal deficiencies that have been linked to chronic disease. Lastly, the vast majority of the nation’s top nutrition scientists not only take multivitamins but they recommend the use of a daily multivitamin and mineral formula for everyone.

If you are attempting to lose weight and are exercising, supplementation is a way of life. Fewer calories in means diminished nutrition; more calories out means more nutrients used.  With this self-imposed nutrient imbalance, plus the above mentioned obstacles, the only way to be optimally nourished is to supplement.

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