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Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement

June 25th, 2014


Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement

Multivitamins and mineral supplements are widely used to augment diets. Most of them contain 10 kinds of vitamins and 10 kinds of minerals (except for calcium), packed into one tablet, to meet the 100% Daily Value (DV) the body requires. Some brands provide more than the daily requirement.

There is some ambiguity among consumers regarding the nature of mineral supplements, and whether they are drug or food.  Drugs are artificial or natural substances with a definite formula and a definite amount.  The effect is has on the body, as well as side effects, can be clearly determined.  Herbal or mineral supplements on the other hand, cannot be clearly monitored for its effect on the body.

Most medicine or pharmaceuticals today are created in the laboratory using artificial substances or extracts from nature.  The procedure is based on scientific lab research and statistical analysis, while traditional herb recipes are based on trial and error after thousands of years.

Looking from this angle, multivitamin and mineral supplement are in between the two categories. Some people expect too much from these pills which claim to prevent the common cold, improve immunity, reduce fatigue, increase energy and lower the risk of some illnesses. Current research has not yielded significant results that multivitamin and mineral supplement can successfully fulfill their claim. Modern day dietary habits, which include eating junk food or highly processed food (de-natured), leave most people lacking in minerals and vitamins that are crucial to health. Informal researches have shown that those who take multivitamin and mineral supplement have a lower chance of developing some diseases such as colon cancer, heart diseases and coronary diseases.

Multivitamin and mineral supplement are recommended to:

Elders: Most elders have less appetite and therefore eat less food, both in terms of amount and variety of food. The digestive system is not functioning well, so they often lack vitamin D, vitamin B and magnesium (Mg).

Productive women: Women trying to get pregnant need more than 400 micrograms of folate (in folic acid supplement) each day. This vitamin is crucial to the healthy development of the fetus during pregnancy. However, folate should be ready and sufficient in the body before pregnancy begins. Furthermore, menstruating women might lack iron.

Breastfeeding women: During breastfeeding, women need more minerals and vitamins. However, in this case – only doctors should prescribe supplements.

Vegetarians: Those who do not eat meat usually lack vitamin B12, zinc, iron and calcium.

Other cases: People on a diet, smokers, drinkers and those who do not like healthy food also should consider taking multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Having spoken of the benefits of supplements, now it is time to point out counter arguments and possible risks from supplements. There is a high trend of breast cancer and prostate cancer among those who receive excessive mineral supplements.  Vitamin A, for example, if consumed in excessive amount, could weaken bones. Having said that, health experts have yet to find enough evidence, that clearly outlines the benefits and safety of supplements; or that it has any direct benefit towards prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, coronary disease, and age-related muscular degeneration.

Another example is, a study in China found that multivitamin and mineral supplement intake and reduced risk of developing cancer.  However, in 2007, a cancer institute in the United States published that men who receive excessive multivitamin supplements stand more chance of developing prostate cancer.

Multivitamin and mineral supplement should only be recommended to those who need extra dietary support.  Research in the U.S shows many people receiving excessive vitamin intake, but are significantly lacking vitamins and minerals from proper dietary habits.  Eating a healthy, fresh, and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise is by far the best method (and less expensive) for maintaining wellness.

Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.


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