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Why Multivitamins Matter

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Multivitamins can help fill gaps in nutrient intake that could result in chronic conditions including osteoporosis, birth defects, anemia, and others.

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Nearly 71% of Canadians have used natural health products, like vitamins and minerals.1 If you don’t take one regularly, and even if you do, you may not fully understand how multivitamins help support health.

The Role of Multivitamins

Health experts favour food for meeting vitamin and mineral needs. Natural health products, vitamins and minerals in particular, are meant to supplement the diet and are not substitutes for a balanced eating plan.

Eating according to Canada’s Food Guide is the key to having a healthy diet, however many Canadians do not follow the Food Guide.2

According to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, nutrition related findings indicate that only half of Canadian adults eat the minimum five daily servings of vegetables and fruit recommended and about 35% of adult Canadians consume enough milk products. A shortfall of these and other nutrient rich foods can have an impact on the health of Canadians.

Who Benefits from Multivitamins

Everyone who doesn’t eat a balanced diet can benefit from taking a multivitamin. People who skimp on servings from one or more food groups, those following eating plans that eliminate certain foods, such as a gluten-free diet, women in their childbearing years, and everyone over 50 may be at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Multivitamins can help fill gaps in nutrient intake that could result in chronic conditions including osteoporosis, birth defects, anemia, and others.

Here are some of the most common nutrient inadequacies that multivitamins can help prevent:

Vitamin D: The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D, necessary to support bone health, is 600 International Units (IU) daily for adults under age 70—the equivalent of six, 250 mL glasses of 2% milk.3 People over the age of 70 need eight glasses of milk to satisfy the suggested intake of 800 IU of Vitamin D daily. Just under one third of Canadians have adequate levels of Vitamin D, and in winter 40% of Canadians are below the adequate levels. Inadequate blood levels of Vitamin D can have a negative impact on bone health.4

Iron: Women of childbearing age may fail to consume adequate Iron, according to current Canadian data.5,6,7 Iron is found in foods including red meats, and fortified foods (cereals, pasta, breads and certain fruits and vegetables). Iron deficiency anemia is a chronic condition characterized by fatigue, rapid heart rate, palpitations and rapid breathing on exertion.

Folate/Folic Acid: Women of childbearing age need to ensure they have enough Folate, a B Vitamin that occurs naturally in plant foods including spinach, beans, and broccoli. Folate, and its synthetic cousin Folic Acid that’s added to grains and multivitamins, helps prevent irreversible birth defects that occur very early in pregnancy. Experts advise all women of childbearing age to consume at least 400 micrograms (ug) of Folic Acid daily from fortified foods and/or dietary supplements every day.8

Vitamin B12: Many people ages 50 and older are less able to absorb the Vitamin B12 that occurs naturally in foods such as meat, seafood, and eggs. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia or even irreparable nerve damage. The synthetic form of Vitamin B12, added to foods and to dietary supplements including multivitamins, is well absorbed by the body, which is why Canadians get most of their Vitamin B12 from those sources.4 19% of Canadians take Vitamin B12 supplements.8

The Bottom Line

Multivitamins offer an array of essential nutrients to help maintain good health.

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