Tribune Print Share Text

Multivitamin supplements

Created date

December 20th, 2011
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on amazon.com). Vitamins have been credited with all sorts of medical miracles, and some people think they are a magic bullet for good health. A recent survey found that over 50% of Americans report taking multivitamins or other dietary supplements. This has occurred despite the fact that there s a lack of strong scientific evidence that vitamins are really good for you. In addition, the results of some recent studies have caused particular concern: One reported an increased risk of death in postmenopausal women taking multivitamins. Another associated vitamin E with an increased risk of prostate cancer. While none of the studies establishes cause and effect, they challenge the belief that multivitamin supplements are completely safe. It s true that the body needs 13 vitamins to stay healthy and function. These are A, C, D, E, K, and eight different B vitamins. Sufficient amounts of all of these can typically be obtained through eating a variety of colorful and healthful foods.

When supplements work

But there are some instances in which supplements are necessary. Many studies have shown that many Americans are vitamin D deficient, and supplementation is particularly important in people with health conditions such as osteoporosis. There is also scientific evidence that people with vitamin B12 deficiencies may be more prone to dementia or other neurological problems. Tell your doctor if you take multivitamins or other supplements and bring them in when you visit. You may not actually need them if you eat a well-balanced diet. You might also keep a dietary diary for a week and review it with your doctor or a nutritionist. Your medical provider can do lab tests as well to see if you have any deficiencies, and recommend supplements based on your individual health status. The main message about multivitamins: A healthy diet is more important than any supplement you can find on the shelf. Discuss and review what you may need for a supplement with your doctor and keep your regimen as simple as possible. In good health, Dr. Narrett

Comments