Do I Really Need to Take a Multivitamin?

Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 09:58 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: Should I take a multivitamin, just to make sure I’m getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need? I can’t imagine there’s a downside.

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
 
If you think you are vitamin deficient, you probably are. But excess vitamin supplementation is not useful and a waste of money. I do agree with you that there is little downside to taking a single multivitamin daily, but don’t expect it to help you live longer or prevent disease. A daily multivitamin is no substitute for a healthy diet.
 
Although I rarely use vitamins myself, I do use them when my diet is erratic or under stress. Calcium supplementation with vitamin D is important as we age and spend less time in the sunlight. Vitamin C is best obtained from fruits.
 
You should also be aware that vitamin supplementation can be problematic or even dangerous when combined with certain medications, so always discuss any vitamins you’re taking with your doctor. Some vitamins can also be toxic at high doses. Taking more than 10,000 units a day of vitamin A daily can be dangerous for your eyes and you should avoid taking too much vitamin C if you have had kidney stones. Excessive beta-carotene has been associated with an increased risk of malignancy, specifically colon malignancy.
 
With vitamins as with any medications, a little may be useful, but a large amount has the potential to be harmful.

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