They take up a copious amount of supermarket and pharmacy shelf space, but do you really need to buy multivitamins?
The argument goes that multivitamins can give you the edge.
But it turns out that taking multivitamins might be a waste of money and some could actually damage your health if taken in excess.
Most of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need are ingested through the food in our diet. Nutritionists talk about the ‘Food First Philosophy’ as the most important way to fuel your body. So if you have a balanced diet, you really shouldn’t need to buy multivitamins.
Not what you think
Taking multivitamins might, in fact, result in too heavy a concentration of some vitamins and minerals. Australian’s national organ donation registries has linked the consumption of vitamin supplements with organ failure. There is also the risk of supplements interfering with the function of prescribed medication.
Plus, ‘herbal’ options may actually contain different active ingredients to what’s listed. Some products available in Australia have been found to contain natural toxins, heavy metals and pesticides.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority warns that you don’t always know what you’re getting. In an analysis of 67 common supplements available in Australia, one in five products contained one or more substances banned in sport. It also says there’s a misconception that all dietary supplements are safe to use.
Waste of money
There’s not much evidence to support the perceived benefit of multivitamins.
Despite the marketing, there’s still no evidence to prove that Vitamin C cures the common cold. The same goes for the claims that Vitamin E treats heart disease.
And good old fish oil capsules might be more like snake oil since taking omega 3 as a supplement may have little to no effect on the risk of heart disease or stroke. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you get your omega 3 naturally by eating fatty fish once or twice a week – such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines or tuna.
One study suggests that some vitamin supplements can harm the body with people falsely assuming that if a little extra vitamin is good, then a lot must be great. Dietician, Dr Rosemary Stanton said that, “this review concluded that money spent on vitamin and antioxidant supplements is not only wasted but could occasionally be harmful”.
However, sometimes there could be a clinical need for a supplement. For example, pregnant women and vegans may become vitamin deficient and a doctor may prescribe a particular vitamin or mineral supplement.
Here in Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration recommends you check the labels of products for the relevant approvals and safety checks. The vitamin industry is highly regulated in Australia and only approved products may be available for purchase if they meet specific criteria.
Think ‘food first’ before considering a supplement. And if prescribed a supplement by your doctor, follow the directions and always read the label.