As the multivitamin and health supplement industry becomes one of the world's leading multibillion-dollar trades, new questions arise as to what role these multivitamins should play in our everyday nutritional requirements. Often, relevant questions leave many pondering why take multivitamins in the first place? Shouldn't we be better off with eating a balanced diet instead of taking in encapsulated, laboratory-made nutritional supplements?
In theory, an average American who eats the right food at the right time should be well off in terms of achieving and maintaining optimum health. Reality, however, has revealed the painful truth: many Americans do not receive many much-needed nutrients because of factors such as lifestyle and access to healthy food. This revelation has been confirmed by many U.S.-backed studies that focused on the lifestyle and average nutritional diet of many Americans.
A Closer Look at the Diet of an Average American
In the U.S., while vitamin-deficiency disorders such as rickets, beriberi, or scurvy may be far and between, individuals who experience deficiencies because of improper nutrition are more likely to exhibit signs of fatigue, dry skin, and mild to moderately impaired mental functions. Low levels of antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E) in the body have been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
The Recommended Daily Allowance
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine further suggests that data gathered from a number of studies have shown that the U.S. recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for some nutrients is not sufficient enough to obtain optimum health benefits. In hindsight, when the Food and Nutrition Research Council established the recommended U.S. RDA in 1941, the benchmark used to implement the dietary allowances was the dosage needed to prevent the onset of nutrition-deficiency disorders such as beriberi, scurvy and rickets. The recommendation did not take into account individual differences in lifestyle such as smoking and other potentially destructive habits. For example, a person who habitually smokes should take twice the daily amount of Vitamin C recommended by the U.S. RDA.
Risk factors can play a vital role in increasing the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies among many individuals. These factors include high consumption of processed food, fast food, and junk food. Destructive habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as exposure to pollution and stress, have also been associated with nutrient deficiencies.
A Note from Dr. Andrew Weil
Dr. Andrew Weil, who founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, asserts that supplements should be taken to offset nutrient deficiencies. He also adds that consumption of a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables is still the best course of action to achieve optimal levels of nutrition. However, factors such as individual lifestyles may result in shortages of some much-needed nutrients - a good reason to take multivitamins in the first place.
On a final note, taking multivitamins will indeed be beneficial to us, especially to individuals whose everyday routines and habits keep them from getting enough nutrition they need from food. However, seeking medical help should be the first course of action prior to taking any nutritional supplements to avoid any unwanted side effects.