The ABCs of Multivitamins

When you were a child, you may have been given a multivitamin every day to supplement your diet. Since some children are picky eaters and they do not always get the proper nutrients from the foods they eat, vitamins are common in childhood. As you grew older and added more meats, fish, fruits and vegetables to your diet, you may have eliminated daily vitamins. However, it may be time to reexamine your need for supplements.

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, an estimated one-third of all adults in the United States take a multivitamin. The NIH reported that a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found multivitamin consumption is higher among women, and the highest percentage of multivitamin users is people age 60 and older.

Multivitamins are important for the body for many reasons.

  • First, as people age, nutritional needs change and it may become more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. In addition, certain medications can deplete the body of nutrients. A multivitamin can help.
  • In the United States, heart disease is responsible for approximately 1 in 4 deaths. Studies have shown that a multivitamin that includes vitamins B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B6, K1, CoQ10 and magnesium may help reduce cardiovascular disease.
  • Adequate vitamin consumption is necessary to help support immune health — including vitamins D, E and C, which is also a strong antioxidant. Zinc, which can be found in many multivitamins, also is great for the immune system.
  • Sunlight on the skin helps the body produce Vitamin D (“the sunshine vitamin”) which not only aids in defending against disease, it helps maintain healthy bones and teeth. In winter, when sunlight is lacking, a multivitamin with vitamin D may give the body the added boost needed.
  • A daily multivitamin can increase energy levels and improve moods as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Women who visit spas and salons for skin and hair treatments may want to stop at their medicine cabinets first for Niacin, Biotin, and Vitamin C for fuller hair and Vitamins A, C, E and CoQ10 for healthier skin.

“Just as our vehicles need gasoline and oil to run properly, our bodies need vitamins and minerals to function efficiently,” said Kayela Reed, MS, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian, Penn Highlands DuBois. “It is ideal to derive those vitamins and minerals from the foods we consume, but when there are deficiencies in our diets, a multivitamin may be needed.”

Kayela advises people to take a close look at their diets and ask themselves, “Do I eat as healthy as I could? What is lacking in my diet?”

If you believe supplemental vitamins may be necessary, it is important to take a product designed for people of your age, sex and life stage (ex. seniors). Multivitamins for “senior” men and women, for example, often contain little or no iron and more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 than multivitamins for younger adults. As with any new therapy or activity related to your health and wellness, you should consult with a medical provider to assess your specific needs.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers a team of expert clinical dietitians for acute care nutritional needs and nutrition counseling for people of all ages. Nutrition specialists are available to provide instruction on reading food labels, understanding carbohydrates and creating meal plans.