It seems that the debate around whether multivitamin and mineral supplements are beneficial is never ending. Are they an essential part of a healthy lifestyle or do they just produce expensive urine?
I am definitely of the opinion that multivitamins are a valuable addition to any regime, but the quality of the supplement is of vital importance and there is a fairly large disparity between many on the market. Look for supplements that have vitamin dosages exceeding the Australian RDI guidelines and have minerals that are in organic forms. Organic salts such as citrates, phosphates, chelates and gluconates provide superior absorption than inorganic salts such as oxides, chlorides and sulphates.
The case supporting the use of supplements is convincing. The average Western diet generally contains suboptimal nutrient levels, especially of some specific micronutrients. Even those with a healthful diet abundant in fruit and vegetables cannot be guaranteed to reach their daily optimum micronutrient levels due to the depleted soils of conventionally grown produce. The signs of true deficiency syndromes (such as scurvy and rickets) have been replaced by sub-deficiency states, particularly of the nutrients zinc, selenium and vitamin D. Research has shown that insufficient micronutrient intake is a risk factor for the development of chronic diseases and is also associated with poor immune function, fatigue and lowered stress tolerance.
Particular population groups are also more at risk of micronutrient deficiency such as children (fussy eaters), the elderly, vegans, alcoholics, smokers, and people with malabsorptive syndromes.
As mentioned previously, choosing a good quality supplement is essential to getting the most out of your multivitamin. Generally speaking, ‘practitioner only’ brands (from health care professionals) will give you higher levels of nutrients and more bio-available formulations. This said, there are still some quality retail products on the market and the more expensive brands will usually have higher dosages and better formulations.