According to a major survey conducted on the use of dietary supplements in 2009, over 3/4 of consumers report regularly taking a multivitamin, a number that’s been on the rise. Many still believe in the multivitamin-is-insurance perspective, filling in any nutritional gaps that may occur in the daily diet, and while there is some evidence to support this, perhaps surprisingly most scientists feel it is insufficient.
Today, there is considerable debate whether these kinds of supplements work or are necessary in fact some studies have even shown to increase the risk of health issues like heart disease and certain cancers we’re trying to reduce. What to do? Supplement carefully if you do and focus first on foods.
No supplement will ever make up for a poor diet.
I am working on my diet, but I’m still interested in a quality women’s multivitamin . . . what should I look for?
We have heard for years that a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement provides us with that ‘insurance plan’ to make up for what may be missing on a day-to-day basis. So if you have an off-day or too few vegetables and fruits, the thought was that the supplement would give you what you were lacking. There’s only partial truth to this. While there is good evidence that a deficiency of certain nutrients in the diet can increase the risk of health issues or reduce our health status and immune function over time, simply supplementing with pills, capsules, liquids, fizzy packets and gummy animals may not be the full answer.
It’s an individual decision but if you are seeking a good quality women’s vitamin and mineral with enough, but not too little or too much of any particular nutrient, here are some tips to get you the right one for you:
- You don’t want a lot of extras avoid multi’s that have added herbs, mega-doses of select nutrients, or boosted antioxidants or proprietary ‘formulas. There’s a time and place for properly prescribed herbs, but not in your multi.
- Look for GMP and/or USP on the label. The GMP seal of Good Manufacturing Practices and the U.S. Pharmacopeia seals ensure quality, purity, strength and consistency of the contents corresponding to the label.
- Nutrients to look for in a women’s multivitamin/mineral supplement.
* CSPI notes that “or more” does not imply that the nutrient is ‘safe at any level’ but that the highest amounts found in multi’s are probably not enough to cause harm.
(Source: Nutrition Action, 2008)
And finally, a few tips to digest before you take your multivitamin:
- Write down the date that you open any supplement on the label or bottle cap with a permanent marker.
- Respect the expiration date.
- Consult a healthcare professional or Registered Dietitian for specific questions and guidance.
- Take them! If you bought them, you probably think they’ll do you some good. But they certainly won’t if you can’t remember to take them or only take them occasionally. Researchers today suggest that many women (and men) can probably benefit with an every-other-day approach. However if taking them on alternating days makes it even less likely that you’ll take them at all, stick with the package recommendations and a daily plan.
By Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD
When it comes to sound nutrition, a quality multivitamin for women can be a smart supplement to your daily routine one that includes all the elements of healthy living.
and Co-owner of Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale).