Multi-Vitamins: Do We Need Them?

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March is National Nutrition Month, which motivates many of us to consider our diet and nutrient intake. One frequently asked health question refers to vitamin supplements. Should we take them?  Here are a few considerations:

If you’re like most people, you may fall short on daily nutrients despite your best intentions. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, less than 9% of Americans consume the recommended 5-9 servings of fresh produce required for optimal health and disease prevention.

As to the food we do eat, we must consider the reduced nutrient content of our soil, and how food packaging, shipping, processing, canning, freezing, storing and cooking practices further deplete vitamins and minerals. Now, factor in the unique stresses of modern life, as well as pollution, pesticides, and medicationseven caffeine and alcoholall of which may increase our need for protective nutrients. It becomes apparent that even the most conscientious among us may not obtain protective levels of vitamins and minerals through daily meals alone.

This position is confirmed by many health professionals. The Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center states that, “Although we all wish we could obtain nutrients entirely through diet, most of us don’t. Therefore, we encourage multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and omega 3′s.”

Bruce Ames a UC Berkeley researcher in DNA repair, cancer and agingrefers to multivitamin supplements as a relatively inexpensive form of medical insurance. He bases his statements on a review of the medical literature, extensive research, and his biochemical knowledge of how vitamins can be disrupted by genetic mutations.

Another expert, Alan Greene MD, FAAP, notes that while the typical American consumes too many calories, they do not translate to adequate nutrition, cutting us short on many key nutrients and phytonutrients that scientists are just beginning to understand. Certainly, a daily broad spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral supplement can help lay a solid foundation of necessary vitamins, minerals and trace elements while shielding your cells from free radical damage.

Ultimately, a health-conscious person has several choices. You can eat abundant amounts of fresh, organic produce every day, or you can take a daily high-quality vitamin/mineral supplement—or both. Doing neither might be compared to going into battle without a shield where your health is concerned. Learning more on this topic can help you decide what’s right for you.

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