If everyone ate healthy, nutrient-dense food such as fruits and vegetables regularly and easily met their daily recommended amounts of essential vitamins and nutrients, then the use of a daily multivitamin may not be necessary – for most people.
Unfortunately this is not possible for most of us who don’t have access to quality food or don’t eat as well as we should. In fact, new research is showing that a multivitamin and mineral supplement could be necessary for all of us.
Giulia Criscuolo, pharmacist and expert in complementary medicine agrees and says, “In an ideal world, we would get all our nutritional needs from the foods we eat, but in reality there are several factors which makes it necessary to take a multivitamin and mineral (MVM) every day:
- The quality of food that is commercially grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, have low levels of essential nutrients due to the quality of soil and are sometimes picked before they are ready.
- Our lifestyles require higher levels of essential nutrients which the diet cannot sustain due to stress, too much sugar and processed foods.”
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that taking supplements helped adults meet the recommended daily intake of certain minerals, such as calcium and magnesium in men and women, as well as iron for women. Interestingly, the study also found that people who used supplements generally ate more nutritious foods too.
Another study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that in children and teenagers between the ages of nine to 18, supplement use added valuable nutrients to their diet that they would otherwise have been deficient in, such as magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E.
In some cases the researchers found that even with the use of supplements, ‘more than a one-third of children failed to meet calcium and vitamin D recommendations’.
Many South Africans suffer from “hidden hunger” – a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals, without which the body cannot function properly. These deficiencies often go unnoticed but have far-reaching consequences. As food prices increase, South Africans find it exceedingly difficult to afford healthy nutrient-rich foods. Studies show that the six important nutrients most of us are deficient in are: vitamins A, C, D, and E, calcium and magnesium.
Who should take a multivitamin and mineral supplement?
Cape Town Pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman recommends that people who are on a restrictive diet should take a multivitamin to ensure they don’t become deficient in any of the essential minerals and vitamins the body needs.
Diets such as the popular high fat – low carbohydrate diet, or the vegan diet, which limit or eliminate whole food groups, and even people fasting for religious or cultural reasons, need to take supplementation as they may suffer vitamin deficiency in the long-run.
Anyone living with HIV/AIDS has an increased risk of malnutrition. When people with HIV/AIDS who have depressed appetites, and an increased requirement for certain nutrients, including energy, are also poor and not able to afford a variety of nutritious foods, they can develop multiple-nutrient malnutrition.
Criscuolo says the following groups of people should be on a good multivitamin daily:
Before you decide to take a multivitamin and mineral, Abdurahman advises that you speak to your doctor or pharmacist as people have different needs and a professional can assist in choosing the correct one for you, based on your diet, health, age, disease profile and often in conjunction with a thorough blood test.