Multivitamins: Why and When?

November 21, 2012

We often get clients asking us what our take is on supplementation of vitamins and minerals, among other natural health products, and we always respond, “depends on who is asking.”

While there isn’t enough evidence to support the notion that multivitamins protect you against chronic disease if you are a well nourished individual, there are circumstances where one should consider it. These circumstances can be a result of our lifestyle, sex, age and most importantly genetics!

Lifestyle: If you are struggling to find a work-life balance, you most likely are having issues trying to achieve a balanced diet. Nutritional balance is not easy to maintain and therefore if we are time-crunched and always on the go, we tend to not get all the nutrients our body needs on a consistent basis and hence a multivitamin may help

Sex:  If you’re a menstruating female, it can be challenging to consume a day’s worth of iron (18 milligrams) from food alone, especially if you do not consume red meat. Women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin, preferably one that has additional Folic acid (or Folate) than your regular ‘once a day’ formula. This B vitamin is vital to preventing serious birth defects called neural tube defects (NTDs) in the developing fetus. According to the general recommendations, women who could become pregnant, who are pregnant, and who are breastfeeding are advised to take a daily multivitamin with 0.4 to 1 milligrams of Folic acid.

Age: If you’re an older adult, you may not be absorbing enough vitamin B12 from your diet. With age, we produce less stomach acid which is needed to absorb the nutrient from proteins in food. That’s why adults over the age of 50 are advised to get B12 from a supplement or fortified foods.

Genetics: We now know that your genetics may significantly influence the way you process certain vitamins. Some people do not process Vitamin C from the diet as efficiently as others and are at a greater risk of Vitamin C deficiency. Studies have shown that the ability to process Vitamin C efficiently depends on a gene called GSTT1 and a person who carries the version of that gene that puts them at greater risk of deficiency must ensure that the RDA for Vitamin C is met daily. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men. Smokers require an additional 35 mg per day. Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries and red or green peppers are very good sources of Vitamin C. However, if a person finds it challenging to get the recommended amount of Vitamin C on a consistent daily basis, it can also be taken in multivitamin form.

Another vitamin of concern is folate. Research has shown that the amount of folate absorbed into the blood can differ between individuals even when the same amount of the vitamin is consumed. Some people do not utilize dietary folate as efficiently as others and are consequently at a greater risk of folate deficiency. An individual’s ability to process dietary folate efficiently depends on a gene called MTHFR.  A person who carries the version of the gene that puts them at greater risk of deficiency must ensure that the RDA of 400 mcg for folate is met daily. Foods that are naturally high in folate include lentils, edemame, spinach, and other leafy greens. Enriched ready-to-eat cereals, bread, and bread products are also good sources of folate. Folate can also be consumed in supplement form in case dietary means are not sufficient.

Until recently, dietitians could only use conventional dietetics to provide clients with general population based advise. Now, thanks to Nutrigenomix Testing, we also have the ability to determine how genetics play a role in the way we process certain vitamins and therefore take the necessary steps to ensure you are getting the right amount of nutrients that you need.

To learn more about whether you need to take multivitamins or how to eat according to your genes, Contact Us and we will be happy to assist you.