Should I take a multivitamin? Utah nutrition expert shares insight

Apr 28, 2022, 4:49 PM
Multivitamin packages...
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 20: Centrum vitamins are offered for sale at a pharmacy June 20, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — Americans have been taking multivitamin dietary supplements since the early 1940s. An estimated one-third of all U.S. adults and one-quarter of U.S. children and adolescents take a multivitamin, according to the National Institutes of Health. But are multivitamins necessary for our health? A Utah naturopathic doctor weighed the evidence.

Taking multivitamins or other commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements won’t actually provide you any health benefits, but they won’t harm you either, one study discovered as reported by Study Finds.

The doctor is in

Mark Pedersen, a naturopathic doctor in Kaysville, joined the discussion about multivitamins and their effectiveness with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic.

“How do you respond to these studies that suggest immune-boosting supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D [and] zinc do virtually nothing to lower a patient’s risk of dying from coronavirus?” Debbie asked.

“It’s a challenge to test for that because how many tests go all the way to death? They just don’t,” Pedersen said.

Genes play role in multivitamin effectiveness

He added genetics are a complicating factor in determining whether multivitamins are effective. For example, he said, about 20% of the population genetically doesn’t convert folic acid — B9 — into folate.

“The trick is, you don’t know what 20% have the problem [and] what don’t because we haven’t done enough genetic testing,” Pedersen said

If a woman consumes enough folic acid –400 micrograms daily– before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent her baby from developing neural tube defects. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida –a spinal cord defect– and anencephaly –a brain defect– according to the CDC.

Is eating healthier the (better) answer?

According to the federal government’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

“Because foods provide an array of nutrients and other components that have benefits for health, nutritional needs should be met primarily through foods… In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements are useful when it is not possible otherwise to meet needs for one or more nutrients (e.g., during specific life stages such as pregnancy).”

Instead of taking a daily multivitamin, Dave asked, “What do you think about just eating healthier?”

“The government tells you to take 23 things. These are all vitamins and minerals. And if you take those 23 things — you can get them for $8.95 for a generic brand in a grocery store,” Pedersen said. “That’s a worthy insurance policy in my book to get all the little things that you may miss because of the way you eat and, honestly, I don’t think anybody doesn’t intend to eat right. I just think in the real world we don’t.”

Food or vitamin?

Debbie said she discovered she had a vitamin D deficiency about 10 years ago. She said she Googled “What foods have vitamin D in them?” Here’s what she found:

  • cod liver oil,
  • sardines,
  • beef liver, to which Debbie said “ew.”
  • swordfish, which Debbie said, “I can hardly afford to eat.”
  • salmon, which Debbie said, “I can stomach that if I need to, but it’s not a fish I run to like every day, and I don’t think I want to eat it every day.”
  • orange juice fortified with vitamin D, of which Debbie is “not a big fan.”

Debbie said her doctor tested her blood, told her to take 4,000 International Units –IUs– of vitamin D daily, and — “I was fine.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

Related: Salt Lake County getting millions in opioid settlement

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Should I take a multivitamin? Utah nutrition expert shares insight