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Do we really need to take multivitamins?

For some time taking a daily multivitamin supplement has been highly recommended for certain target groups such as vegans, vegetarians, those who skip meals or those on restricted diets. However statistics are fast showing that in fact taking a multivitamin should be part of everyone’s daily routine. There are many within the natural health industry whom claim that we simply cannot reach the necessary levels of micronutrients we need with a modern diet of 2000 calories per day, regardless of how healthy that diet may be. The USA Food and Drug Administration already recommends a multivitamin for all American adults, perhaps the UK will not be far behind.

Are we facing an irreversibly nutrient poor lifestyle? Convenience foods, snacking on processed foods, decreased soil quality and long term food storage techniques all contribute to the parallel rise in the incidence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity that we are seeing now. As the pace of life increases, many people find it difficult to eat a well balanced diet and often resort to ‘on the go’ convenience foods. Despite recommendations the average person in the UK consumes less than 3 daily portions of fruit and vegetables instead of the recommended 5 (87% of men and 85% of women), meaning that many people are likely to be suffering from multiple nutrient deficiencies (Department of Health, 2004). In addition changes in farming techniques, decreased soil quality and long term storage have resulted in a dramatic decline in the nutrient content of our foods. Much of the food that we eat has travelled many miles to reach us, and then stayed on supermarket shelves for days meaning that nutrient levels have become depleted over time. Months may elapse between harvesting and eating, not giving the fruit or vegetable its full nutrient potential. Startling declines in the nutrient value of soil in which food is grown over the last decade, particularly in the minerals magnesium and selenium, have left us unable to rely on food for the full spectrum of nutrients that we need.

Taking a multivitamin does not give free license to eat what you want when you want. It is simply a building block, to provide a base of nutrients to be built upon by a healthy diet. Multivitamin products can also be targeted to specific groups with varying requirements. For example post-menopausal women and men above 50 will require more calcium than other groups. Equally botanicals such as gingko biloba may be in this category to give further support to cognitive function. Younger women may benefit from higher levels of iron, B6 and folic acid. You may be aware that your lifestyle may be especially busy making eating well and regularly harder than average. On top of this your body’s requirements for nutrients becomes even more important the busier you are. For this reason taking a multivitamin targeted at your specific category can carry significant benefits.

Even the professionals, such as nutritionists who preach the therapeutic value of food, support the use of a multivitamin as a foundation stone for a healthy lifestyle. If you decide to take a multivitamin, don’t sit back and let it do all the hard work. Take responsibility for your health and future, no matter how old you are; eat and exercise well.

Do you need a multivitamin?

  1. Do you regularly eat less than the recommended minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
  2. Do you experience stress, have a hectic lifestyle and are regularly ‘on the go’?
  3. Do you often resort to convenience type foods or ready meals?
  4. Do you suffer from constipation, bloating or other digestive problems?
  5. Do you get colds/flu more than three times per year?
  6. Do you live or work on or near a busy road or town, with chemicals or pesticides?