Multivitamins: Friend or Foe?

By Drs. Romy Block & Arielle Levitan

Today, a patient said the following “I just heard in the news that multivitamins are bad for you. Can vitamins hurt me? Should I take them or stop? ” This patient was a woman in her late 40s. She generally was healthy, ate a reasonably balanced diet and exercised moderately. The first response to her was “what’s in your multivitamin? How did you choose it? Have you considered custom vitamins?” She really did not know why she was taking multivitamins and what was in her generic store brand. This is all too often the answer. Sadly, this is also why much of the negative data about multivitamins exists.

Lately everyone is talking about a study which suggested that vitamins are not helpful. However, when you examine the study and its protocols, it is hard to give definitive weight to its conclusion. In the study, they took a large group of people of all ages and health statuses and looked at who lived longer, those taking the vitamins or those who were not. The answer was somewhat of a tie. That is, the two groups lived for similar lengths of time. The problem with this study, however, is that it did not look at the individuals themselves and whether the individuals taking the vitamins were taking vitamins that were appropriate for them. Therefore, the study gives us very limited and perhaps misleading information.

One thing we know is that the study by no means shows that any given person may not benefit from certain vitamins. The study also did not address any end points other than death, so it is possible that the people taking the vitamins were leading much happier and healthier lives than those who didn’t take them. The people taking the vitamins may have had fewer complaints about lack of energy, hair loss, trouble losing weight or many of the other conditions vitamins may help. Also, the quality of the vitamins was not examined. Given the lack of FDA oversight in the manufacturing of supplements, quality and purity of products are always of concern. In fact, we know that poorly manufactured vitamins are not only less effective, but they can be harmful and cause liver damage from contaminates or other toxins. Using a reputable source for vitamins is essential.

The key to figuring out what vitamins you should take is not to look at an aggregate of 10,000 people but rather to look at your very own needs. Your diet, your lifestyle, personal health history and family history will determine what vitamins are right for you. Take our vitamin quiz to get an all in one vitamin. Frankly, most off the shelf multivitamins will not address those needs. They will have too much of certain vitamins you likely do not need (Vitamin A, heavy metals) and that may in fact harm you (Vitamin A in excess may cause cancer, heavy metals may contribute to dementia). Standard multivitamins usually do not have enough of the things you actually do need. A custom vitamin regimen, taking this into account is the way to go.

Back to our patient. Upon further questioning, she was taking her multivitamins for energy and hoping that it would also help with bone health. However, as we looked closely at her diet and lifestyle, we determined she needed more Vitamin D for her bones, more iron for energy and more magnesium. Her multivitamins were not providing the right balance of those ingredients for her particular needs. You can take our vitamin quiz at Find Your Vous® and get the all in one vitamin that is tailored to your needs.


Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health.  She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients.  After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take,  Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.

 

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