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Talk with the Doc: Daily multivitamins and minerals

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

A daily multivitamin can provide health benefits by providing the vitamins and minerals that we all need to maintain good health. Let us first take a look at the use of multivitamins and mineral supplements in the United States. Americans have been taking multivitamin and mineral supplements since the early 1940s, when these products first became available. These multivitamin and mineral supplements are very popular dietary supplements and, according to government estimates, more than one-third of all Americans take these supplements. The company who manufacturers the products determine the types and levels of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients in their specific multivitamin and mineral supplements and, as a result, many types are available in the marketplace.

When you are looking for a daily multivitamin and/or for a mineral supplement, you will find many varied products available. Most of these products are recommended to be taken once a day. They will generally contain all or most of the recommended vitamins and minerals, generally at levels close to the recommended daily intake values. There is a wide variety of these products available with different formulations for children, adults, men, women, pregnant women, and seniors. These various formulations typically provide varying amounts of the same vitamins and minerals, based on medical research to determine the specific vitamin and mineral needs of these various populations.

People take multivitamins and mineral supplements for a variety of reasons. They are generally taken as a supplement to improve one’s health, to prevent chronic disease, or both. It is generally recognized that taking multivitamins and mineral supplements will generally help a person to take in the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals when they cannot meet these needs from food alone. Generally, females take more multivitamins and mineral supplements than males, as noted in the following survey results. Overall, 36% of females and 31% of males take multivitamins and mineral supplements on a regular basis. Further, it was found that the number of people taking these multivitamins and mineral supplements increased with age. Specifically, 48% of women and 43% of men aged 71 years or older were found to be regularly taking multivitamins and mineral supplements.

Let us now take a look at the various types of vitamins that we need for our body to function properly. There are two types of vitamins, known as fat-soluble vitamins, or water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissue. The four fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed more easily by the body in the presence of dietary fat. There are nine water-soluble vitamins. They are not stored in the body. Any leftover water-soluble vitamins leave the body through the urine. Although, the body keeps a small reserve of these vitamins, they have to be taken on a regular basis to prevent shortage in the body. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the liver for many years. Minerals commonly found in multivitamin tablets may include calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, and others.

The following is from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and gives a brief summary of the benefits of some of our essential vitamins and minerals. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium, and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, and these are molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health. If is known that women need iron during pregnancy, and breast-fed infants need vitamin D. It is further recommended that all women of child bearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, whether from supplements or from fortified food. The NIH also informs us that vitamin B12 helps to keep our nerve and blood cells healthy. Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so those who choose not to consume these foods may wish to consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it.

Be sure to talk to your health care provider about any multivitamins or mineral supplements you may be taking, or if these supplements should be added to your daily routine. Yes, these are “Doctor’s Orders”!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.

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