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What are the benefits of taking multivitamin supplements?

Frank Lovecchio, D.O.  

Frank LoVecchio, D.O., is a medical toxicologist at the Banner Good Samaritan Poison & Drug Information Center.

Question: Are there benefits to taking a multivitamin supplements?


Answer: Natural foods are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, essential not only for our growth, but for preventing diseases and illnesses. On average most Americans are not vitamin deficient and do not require vitamin supplements to reach the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins.

There are two types of vitamins – fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and used when the body requires them; they can be replenished at regular intervals. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins do not get stored, but travel through the bloodstream in the body and need to be replenished almost daily. Vitamins are divided into four fat-soluble types (A, D, E and K) and nine water-soluble types (eight B vitamins and vitamin C).

Though foods provide the most essential vitamins and minerals- not getting enough vitamins can have a negative effect on your body. For example, a vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, which leads to spots on the skin and spongy gums, while a vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a softening of bones in children which could potentially lead to fractures and deformity.

However, before taking more vitamins, you need to consult your doctor as more vitamins may not be better for you; in fact, they could be harmful. The best randomized trials of the past few years have failed to show that adding nutritional supplements to a normal diet does anything to prevent heart disease, cancer or death. Unfortunately, many vitamins have harmful effects, such as excess vitamin C causing kidney stones and excessive vitamin D resulting in kidney stones, kidney problems and occasional coma.

Researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, recently reported on a study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Neuhouser said, "To our surprise we found that multivitamins did not lower the risk of the most common cancers and also had no impact on heart disease."

Multivitamins most likely will not have an effect on the majority of people who eat a healthy diet.

Reviewed March 2010

Page Last Modified: 03/16/2010
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