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Do we need vitamin supplements?

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 9:25 a.m. CDT

I read the article by Kevin Craver in Shaw Media publications this week discussing recent research stating that multivitamin supplements have no effect on cognitive or cardiovascular health or other chronic diseases, and the potential recommendation to avoid them completely.

For those of us in the field of nutrition, this is not news. Research pertaining vitamin supplementation has indicated this for a long time.   

I came to the field of nutrition after spending a few years working in health food stores. These stores have a strong culture behind them that I love. Many of my closest and dearest friends are a part of this culture and believe strongly in the products they are selling to people, as I did for years too. When the discussion of dietary supplements, their safety, and their necessity came up while I was in school, I was often on the defense, supporting my health food store nation.  

There is significant research, as mentioned in Craver’s article, finding little or no benefit to vitamin supplementation. In some cases, supplementation can be harmful. With this being said, it’s still hard to deny that many people claim to feel better after taking multivitamins and other dietary supplements. Is it the placebo effect or direct effects of the supplement?  

As a dietitian, we are taught to encourage food as the primary source of nutrients in the diet. I’m going to stick with this position. If a multivitamin seems to make you feel better and give you more energy, I’m not going to tell you not to take it, but please try to make sure you’re eating your fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at the same time.  

And remember that too much of anything is usually not a good thing.

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