Should I Start Taking a Multivitamin?
We are all aware of the importance of ensuring we have our daily dose of specific vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for our overall health. Many recommended daily targets can easily be reached with a balanced diet, but what if you struggle to meet this? Does a standard diet give us all the vitamins and minerals we need, or should we be reaching for a daily multivitamin?
Specific diseases, such as rickets and scurvy, are caused by a lack of nutrients, although these are relatively rare in developed countries, due to the wide range of food available. A diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables should provide most of what we need to remain healthy, although in the winter months it’s advisable to take a vitamin D supplement; the low levels of sunlight in the UK during the winter makes it difficult to hit the recommended targets.
Particular groups are at higher risk of not being able to meet the guidelines for daily intake, and may benefit from taking a multivitamin. These groups include anyone on a restrictive diet; those pregnant or trying for a baby; people on certain medications, such as diuretics; those over the age of 50; anyone with a medical condition that results in malabsorption of nutrients, such as coeliac disease, colitis, cystic fibrosis; and people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. Multivitamins are huge business and this can make them confusing to buy, particularly as they are sold as specific combinations of nutrients. If you are unsure which multivitamin to buy, it is a good idea to speak to a nutritionist or health professional.
DRVs (Dietary Reference Values) are a set of reference values established to develop dietary guidelines around nutrient intake. This set includes the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), which is the amount of a nutrient established to be enough to meet the needs of the average person. A list of these intake targets is available on the British Nutrition Foundation website, and advice on ways to get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet is available on the NHS Eatwell website.