Should you take multivitamins?

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What Are Multivitamins?

Multivitamins are a dietary supplement containing multiple vitamins and minerals. They are available in several forms including capsules, tablets and oral liquids.

Multivitamins don’t follow a specific “recipe” – each manufacturer formulates a unique product.  However, the majority usually contain the vitamins and minerals which are essential to our bodies, along with some non-essential ones.  You may find that iron is not included as it’s often more convenient to take it separately due to its unpleasant side effects.

Are Multivitamins Safe?

pillsMultivitamins are safe, as long as you take them in accordance with their instructions and take into account any advice from your pharmacist.

As with any medicines or supplements, you should always check the ingredient list on the package label to avoid intolerances.  Many supplements contain lactose or gluten, but there are alternatives available.  If you have a health condition or take a regular prescription medicine, make sure to speak to your doctor before taking a multivitamin, as dangerous interactions can occur.

It’s important to remember that multivitamins are not a replacement for meals; rather, they are a supplement to your diet.

Do You Need A Multivitamin?

If you eat relatively healthy foods but are lacking in some vitamins, a multivitamin will most likely be beneficial. Groups which may find their diets lacking in certain vitamins include those with dietary restrictions such as vegans, vegetarians, those with food intolerances and those who consume a lot of processed food.

Our vitamin requirements also change as we age.  With advancing years, the need for certain vitamins and minerals increases. For example, due to hormonal changes associated with menopause, older women are at risk for bone loss. Therefore it’s crucial that they get enough calcium. Seniors also tend to spend a lot of time indoors away from the sun, so they may not get enough vitamin D. In addition, our body’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients declines with age. For these reasons, a multivitamin may be a good idea for those over the age of 50.

The Benefits of Multivitamins

Multivitamins protect your heart

We all want to maintain a healthy heart, especially as we grow older. Our risk for heart disease increases with age due to physical inactivity, a buildup of plaque and the fact that our arteries get stiffer over time.

Taking multivitamins may protect your heart. Research has shown multivitamin use is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and a lower risk of heart disease.

This protective effect is due to the antioxidant effects of vitamins and also the niacin and inositol content, which helps by raising HDL (“good cholesterol”).

Multivitamins boost cognition

As we get older, we begin to notice that we are not as mentally sharp as we once were.  We don’t have to suffer through brain fog and memory loss all the time though – there are some simple ways to help boost your cognition.

Several studies show that multivitamins can boost memory and improve attention, accuracy and multi-tasking abilities. They also help to improve mood and alertness, while lowering stress levels. This is great news for us all since stress is something that we all want to avoid.  Stress can lead to many other health problems.  Staying positive and relaxed may improve your performance when problem-solving.

Multivitamins protect your eyes

eyeOne major concern as we age is our vision. How many people do you know in their 50s (or older) who wear glasses? Your answer is likely more than one. It’s no surprise, though. As we age, our ability to focus on objects declines due to the hardening of our lens.

Fortunately, multivitamins offer protection to your eyes. Studies have found they reduce the risk of cataracts and may help to prevent macular degeneration.

Multivitamins may prevent cancer

Not only are carcinogens in everything from our cosmetics to the foods we eat, but the risk of cancer increases with age, too. This may be due to prolonged exposure to carcinogens or the accumulation of mutations in our cells over the years. Multivitamins may help protect you from cancer, though.

Studies find that taking a multivitamin lowers the risk of certain cancers. For example, one study found that multivitamin use was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in women. Another study suggests that daily multivitamin use can prevent 68,000 cancers annually. It’s better to be safe than sorry—especially when it comes to something as serious as cancer!