Doctors Recommend Taking Vitamins
Yes, many doctors recommend taking vitamins and supplement. Some are saying that all adults should at least be taking a multivitamin.
Vitamins and supplements may have gotten some bad press saying that they just come out the other end as expensive urine. And there are some safety concerns due to the fact that vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
However, many doctors and experts are saying that most people should be taking vitamins and supplements daily to supplement beyond what they get from their diet. Vitamins and supplements are not to be used as a substitute for whole foods, but used to supplement it.
While it is true that real whole food is better than vitamins and supplement, we simply do not get enough of them from our food based on our average diet.
The book UltraPrevention cites that ...
"80 percent of Americans are not getting even the RDA of one or more of the essential vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients." [page 177]
And for those few that are getting the RDA amounts of essential vitamins, the RDA values themselves may be too low as mentioned by many experts.
What Experts are Saying About Vitamins and Supplements
Speaking generally, certain vitamins and supplements do have their benefits and are recommended for most people. Here are what some experts are saying about them.
In a radio program, Joe Graedon of People's Pharmacy, talked of importance of vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil.
He says that if grew our own fruits and vegetables, didn't import food from so far away, and if we really did eat 5 or 6 or 7 helpings a day of those essential nutrients, then many of us would not need vitamin pills and mineral supplements. But looking at what the average teenagers eat, you are not going to get the balance amount of nutrients. Also if you are taking medication, some of which may reduce the ability to absorb certain vitamins, then you may also need supplementation.
Joe Graedon says in the radio program ...
"I do think many of us do need some vitamins and minerals every day as a supplement beyond what we can get from our diet. Because (a) we are not eating well, (b) a lot of us are taking medicines which are depleting our bodies of these essential nutrients."[reference]
As a counter-point, the third guest of the radio program Nancy Clark a registered dietitian says that vitamins/supplements are overrated. Most healthy people can get the nutrients they need from foods. They know what they should be eating, but some just don't. She says that food is much more important and one should not use vitamins and supplements as substitutes for food.
Many nutritionist believe that is not possible to get the optimum amount of vitamins from our daily foods. The authors of the book The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book writes...
"However, it is virtually impossible to meet the RDIs by eating the food available to us today. As a clinician who sees real people, I know how impractical and mis-leading the typical well-balanced diet explained in nutrition handbooks can be." [page 19]
This is partly because our foods are grown in nutrient depleted soils. Nutritional value are also partially lost during the transport, storage, processing, and even cooking of the foods.
Dr. Kilmer McCully writes ...
"If you're over the age of sixty to sixty-five, it makes sense to take an ordinary daily multivitamin to compensate for the decreased ability to absorb vitamins that happens as you age." [page 116 of The Heart Revolution]
Dr. Mark Hyman writes about Vitamins
Dr. Mark Hyman writes in his book The Ultramind Solution, Dr. Hyman writes that people don't need vitamin ...
"only if they eat wild, fresh, whole, organic, local, nongenetically modified food grown in virgin mineral- then nutrient-rich soils and not transported across vast distances and stored for months before being eaten. And if they work and live outside, breathe only fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep night hours a day, move their bodies every day, and are free from chronic stressors and exposure to environmental toxins. Then we don't need vitamins." [page 114]
On page 116 (you can look it up), he further writes ...
"In today's world everyone needs a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement the research is overwhelming on this point."
Part of the reason is that we live in a world filled with chronic stress and exposure to toxins and pollution that depletes our nutrients and require greater demands on our bodies than before. Also our food is grown in nutrient-depleted soils.
In fact, our current dietary reference intake (DRIs) may be too low because this based on the premise that that is the amount needed to prevent disease. However, that is not the amount needed to optimize cellular function. For that, you need more. And if you don't get enough, it may lead to "long-latency" deficiency diseases -- which are diseases that can take years to develop due to years of slight deficiency in some nutrient.
For example, Dr. Hyman writes ...
"if you don't have enough folic acid for optimal function over thirty to forty years, you will double your risk of Alzheimer's disease." [page 120]
He also mentions the importance of multi-vitamins in his talk at Google on brain health at about 45:45 minutes into the below video...
And in the video on the right, he recommends the following supplements ...
- A high quality multi-vitamin/mineral which include mixed carotenoids (such as Lutein and zeaxanthin), mixed B-complex, and folic acid.
- Calcium and magnesium -- preferably calcium citrate or chelated. Not calcium carbonate, and not magnesium oxide.
- Vitamin D (1000 to 2000 units a day for non-deficient person -- more for those deficient in vitamin D)
- Omega-3 fatty acids containing DHA and EPA (1000 to 2000 mg a day)
He says that the cost is low, the benefits are high, and the risk of taking these are almost non-existent.
Dr. Andrew Weil on Vitamins
But wouldn't it be great to know what doctors take themselves.
Dr. Andrew Weil says on the "Today" show that he takes a multi-vitamin as an insurance. He believes that people should take vitamin everyday. When asked the question whether it is possible that people can get a balanced diet without the need of taking vitamins. He says ...
"It is an ideal to aim for because foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals. And taking a vitamin supplement is not going to make up for a poor diet. But the fact is ... few of us are able to eat an ideal diet every day."
He further says that ...
"I think you will find that most of the leading nutrition researcher in the country today recommend that everyone take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement."
He clarifies that "everyone" means anybody over the age of five.
Dr. Weil also says the RDA (recommended daily allowance) levels are outdated for the same reasons mentioned previously. Higher levels are needed.
Some advice he gives ...
- Take vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene instead of retinal. (Let the body make vitamin A from beta-carotene).
- Limit iron because body can only get rid of iron through blood loss. (Should be no iron in multi-vitamin unless you are a women having menstrual periods or a growing child)
- Look for natural vitamin E. It is the one vitamin that has a difference between natural and synthetic. The synthetic is dl-alpha tocopherol and only half is usable by the body. Ideal to get all four natural tocopherol (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Look for "mixed natural tocopherol" and not the one with "dl".
Dr. Weil has a section about vitamins and supplements in his book "Natural Health, Natural Medicine" where he writes ...
"I am not a great fan of taking pills, and I think it is desirable to get most of our nutritional needs from our diets, but I also see reasons to take certain supplements. ... Many patients who come to see me tell me they take a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day as a kind of "nutritional insurance." I wholeheartedly support that strategy."
What Supplements does Dr. Oz Take?
Someone asked Dr. Oz the question of what supplements he himself take. In his video response (shown on the right), he takes...
- a multivitamin (containing all five letters A, B, C, D, E)
- vitamin D (can have magnesium and calcium in it)
- omega-3 (preferably DHA)
He says that although people could potentially get everything from their diet, most people don't. He mentions of a survey where less than 1% of the people got the necessary nutrients from the food. Also an apple today may not have all the nutrients that an apple had 100 years ago. And that's why we need to take vitamins.
Up to 2000 IU a day of vitamin D is still considered safe. So you can combine a multivitamin along with a vitamin D supplement even if your multivitamin already has vitamin D in it. The total of the two can be 1000 IU to 1200 IU.
Incidentally, Dr. Oz had Dr. Mercola on his Dr. Oz Show one time and he asked Dr. Mercola what regiment he takes. Dr. Mercola said he doesn't take too many because he uses food, but that he takes astaxanthin, Co-Q10, krill oil, pro-biotics, and a little bit of iodine.
When Dr. Oz asked Dr. Weil what supplements he takes, Dr. Weil said that he takes a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral, Co-Q10, a mixed mushroom formula, and two baby aspirins.
Dr. Chopra is not a big vitamin taker. But the one vitamin that he does take daily is 1000 IU of vitamin D3.[reference: page 98 of Doctor Chopra Says]
If you still have doubts about whether to take vitamins or not, read the book "You: The Owner's Manual" by Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz.
It is filled with recommendations for various vitamins and supplements throughout the book.
The doctors who authored the book Ultraprevention writes ...
"Multiple studies have proven the value of several vitamins in the treatment and prevention of a number of disorders. Misleading studies looking at supplementation with single nutrients have erroneously created a myth that taking vitamins is bad for you, or that you can meet all of your nutritional needs through food alone." [page 21]
The authors of the book Stop Prediabetes Now says ...
"We believe that nutritional supplements are essential for health, especially for people who have prediabetes or weight problems." (page 208)
And they show a bar chart of the percentage of Americans who are not consuming the recommended intakes of various necessary vitamins. For example, the chart shows that 85% is not getting the recommended amount of vitamin E. 68% not getting enough magnesium. And 73% and 75% are not getting enough calcium and folate respectively.
The book, The Mood Cure, writes ...
"One of our nutritional consultants has been doing very detailed diet analysis for years. She has never found any diet, including the best diets of superathletes, that contains 100 percent of the essential nutrients at even the most minimal, outdated, RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) levels."
Some multivitamins that book mentions are
- True Balance Multiple by NOW Foods,
- My Favorite Multiple Original Formula by Natrol
- Allergy Multi byTwinLabs
Some people may not want the iron that is in Allergy Multi. Other may not want the calcium in the My Favorite Multiple (pick the one without iron). The True Balance one has only a tiny bit (9% DV) of calcium. So that may be okay especially if you take it with vitamin K2. See why.
Also see How to Choose a Multi-Vitamin
Papers and Studies about Vitamins
The paper "Vitamins of Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association makes the following recommendation: "We recommend that all adults take one multivitamin daily."
Learn more about vitamins and supplements at the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements. In many multivitamins and supplements, you may see the percentage amount go over 100% of RDI (reference daily intake). This is fine, because the RDI values are too low for many nutrients. Just be careful of too much iron, copper, and vitamin A.
Vitamins to reduce long-latency deficiency diseases
Despite some literature citing the value of vitamins, some will argue that the studies are not strong enough empirically and that there is "no proof" that vitamin improves health. They will cite other studies that show vitamin has no effect.
And for those who tried taking vitamin, they may not feel any difference. That is because vitamins work at the cellular level. One may not "feel" anything especially when one is currently healthy. Vitamins are meant to maintain health and reduce health deterioration as we get older.
Many chronic illnesses of the later years may be due to slight vitamin deficiency many years earlier. For example, if one has a slight deficiency in folic acid over the course of 30 to 40 year, it may not have any effect in the immediate. However, it doubles the risk of Alzheimer's in your later years. Dr. Mark Hyman call these "long-latency deficiency" diseases on page 120 of his book The UltraMind Solution.
So vitamins that you take in your 30's may help reduce your risk of certain illness in your 50's. It is for this reason that it is difficult for studies to find a positive correlation between vitamins and health.
Although vitamins may not have immediate effects, vitamins are an investment for the future.
Vitamins to be used only as a supplement
Of course, it is better to get our vitamins from food sources rather than through pills. Our bodies have evolved to absorb the nutrients that in the balanced proportions that are found in foods. Supplements should only be used as supplement in addition to healthy food. Pills should not be used in place of real food.
However, there are times in our busy modern life where we are not eating and cooking our foods as much as we would like. We are eating out and using occasional fast food which is often lacking in fresh healthy vegetables. Therefore, it is necessary to supplement with vitamins and supplements. Even if we are eating a healthy diet, we still may not be getting optimum amount of certain nutrients due to depleted soils and high processing and transportation of our foods.
Some Cautions on Vitamins and Supplements
An important point is that one has to know the right kinds of vitamins and supplements to take. There are good ones and then there are downright dangerous ones. Do not take any of these dangerous supplement listed in this article.
Not only that, but one has to know whether a particular vitamin/supplement is suitable for a particular individual. Because what may be good for one person may not be good for another. Different individuals will also have different dosage requirements and tolerances. Not all vitamins/supplements may be suitable for everyone, and they may have interactions with other medications they are taking. So it is a good idea to consult with a professional or a physician before taking any vitamins or supplements for your particular situation.
I try to get them nutrients from food first. Then I supplement only select ones -- never any one continuously for long period, but rotate supplements. Watch of signs of supplement overdose.
Some supplements can be helpful, but others are dangerous, and it depends on the form.
For example, vitamin D2 is dangerous. While D3 can be helpful for some people (but only if their vitamin D levels are checked and monitored). Magnesium citrate is good. But Magnesium oxide should be avoided. Learn why in this article.
Calcium is unwise if taken without K2. Men generally should not be taking calcium or iron supplements. Read "Should we be even taking calcium supplements". And so on.
And watch out for certain harmful fillers in your supplements. You don't want gluten or titanium dioxide fillers and other ingredients that you may have a sensitivity to.
This article was written in 2012 and is opinion at the time of writing. It is not medical advice. Author may receive compensation from the display ads within article.
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