Most people could probably benefit from taking a multivitamin, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, but popping a pill can't erase the health effects of a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers reviewed the evidence for and against using various vitamin supplements to prevent disease in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Substantial data suggest that higher intakes of folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin D will benefit many people, and a multivitamin will ensure an adequate intake of other vitamins for which the evidence of benefit is indirect. Taking a multivitamin is particularly important for women who may become pregnant, people who drink one or two alcoholic beverages daily and urban residents who may not be able to afford to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Elderly people should also take a multivitamin, the report indicates, because they tend to have a difficult time absorbing vitamin B12 and to be deficient in vitamin D. And vegans might also want to consider a multivitamin because they may lack vitamin B12.
The report highlights the benefits of folic acid for women of childbearing age, because the nutrient can prevent them from having a child with neural tube defects. The authors also believe that vitamin E supplements are reasonable for most middle-aged and older North Americans who are at increased risk for heart disease.
But the authors emphasize that a vitamin pill is no substitute for a healthy diet because foods contain additional important components, such as fiber and essential fatty acids. And a vitamin supplement cannot begin to compensate for the massive risks associated with smoking, obesity or inactivity.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.