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Do we really need multivitamins & supplements?

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.



It’s not only what you eat but lifestyle habits that determine what you need.  Make sure to move more, stress less and eat healthy!

Do we really need multivitamins & supplements?

Many Americans, whether on the road for long periods of time or not, may benefit from a good multivitamin or various supplements to their diet.  In this article, we will review how to get the best nutrients from your food consumption, the benefits of whole foods over supplements and some recommended supplements for your overall health.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a daily vitamin is a good nutrition policy.  A multivitamin provides some protection against deficiencies but eating healthy foods is always best.  Recommendations of healthy foods include choosing a diet rich in the following:

  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Healthy oils
  • Low in red meat and unhealthy fats

Supplements should not be a food substitute simply because there are many more benefits to whole foods and all the nutrients cannot be duplicated with a supplement.

Benefits of whole foods vs supplements:

  • Protective, naturally occurring substances (Phytochemicals which help protect against cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease)
  • Vital nutrients (whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits provide dietary fiber).  Fiber can not only help manage constipation but can prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Greater nutrition. There are so many additional nutrients found in whole foods providing a variety of what your body needs.

It is important to note that you should always check with your doctor before using supplements.  Some supplements interact with medications you may be taking. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take any supplements unless recommended by their doctor other than prenatal vitamins.  Try to purchase supplements that contain the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) which indicates that these supplements contain 95% to 100% of the active ingredient.

In addition:

  • Always check the label of the supplements you are considering.
  • Look at the active ingredients and serving size.
  • Check the expiration dates.
  • Avoid overdoing it with supplements.  Take a look at percent of daily value when choosing a multivitamin-mineral supplements looking for 100% daily value (DV).  Stick to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).
  • Always be alert to any Food and Drug Administration announcements.

Your doctor may recommend the following supplements that are particularly beneficial for heart health:

  • Fish oil
  • Plant sterols
  • Fiber (psyllium)
  • Co Enzyme Q10
Omega -3 Fatty Acids (Fish oil, Flaxseed oil) :

Omega 3s have shown to improve heart health by decreasing triglycerides (fat in your arteries) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

Plant Sterols:

Plant Sterols are derived from plant based foods.  These products have been shown to lower the total and LDL (bad cholesterol).

Fiber (psyllium):

Psyllium comes from the husks of seeds from Plantago ovata. Psyllium provides fiber that can reduce total and LDL cholesterol.  Fiber has been shown to increase good cholesterol (HDL).

Coenzyme Q 10:

Coenzyme Q 10 is produced by the body and is critical in cell function.  Studies have shown that Coenzyme Q 10 can reverse or prevent the degenerative lesions of the heart associated with heart disease and heart failure.  It has also shown to lower blood pressure and helps regulate blood sugar.

Buy Generic

Experts say store brands are just as effective as their pricier counterparts. Multivitamins such as Walmart’s Equate, Costco’s Kirkland Signature, and Target’s Up & Up contain the nutrients listed on the label and dissolve properly. Others may disagree with this assessment saying some brands are not as high of quality ingredients or absorbed by your body.  Your body is the best judge. Try for one a month and see if you feel better.

Multivitamin Brand Options

Easily found in local drug & grocery stores, the following multivitamin options are also reasonably priced:

  • Centrum Silver Men 50+ (for men all ages)
  • One-A-Day Women’s (for premenopausal women)
  • Centrum Silver Adults 50+ (for women over 50)

A bit more expensive, and found through online website sale or network marketing avenues, the following unisex multivitamins tout a wide range of beneficial ingredients and increased bioavailability of nutrients:

  • Xtend-Life Total Balance
  • Douglas Labs Ultra Preventative X
  • USANA Essentials

See the following website for a complete review of many brands to see how your current multivitamin rates: http://www.multivitaminguide.org/top-multivitamins.html

Consult with your doctor and see which supplements are right for you!

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