Yes, and daily, particularly if you are among the 97 percent of Americans who lack the significant time, money, and willpower required to follow a diet perfectly tailored to their body’s individual nutritional needs. Because the majority of us, for various reasons, fall into this category, vitamin supplements – at least in the form of a daily multivitamin produced by a trusted and tested manufacturer – remain widely recommended by doctors and experts for general usage, as well as for those with specific deficiencies.
Researchers have commonly found that the quality of the vitamins found in pills is not identical to that found directly in food, meaning that vitamins are supplements to and not replacements for a perfectly balanced diet. Caution with vitamin use is also generally voiced to those who meet their dietary reference intake (DRI) with diet alone, but it is well-documented that, until full balance is achieved, a daily vitamin regimen – whether of one multivitamin or several individual supplements – fortifies the body and helps compensate for nutritional deficits stemming from unbalanced diet, positively affecting those interested in maximizing and maintaining health.
Risks do exist – as several recent studies have exposed – but they are relatively easy to mitigate with basic research, common sense, and consultation with your physician.
- Research both the brand and the vitamin before you buy it, verifying safety and compliance. Several recent studies have exposed inaccurate and/or inconsistent labeling by vitamin manufacturers, resulting in users’ exposure to unsafe ingredients or quantities. As dietary supplements, vitamins are not regulated by the government with the same stringency as medications. They are defined as a food by the US Food and Drug Administration and therefore subject to regulation only by the manufacturer. As a result, in addition to gathering general information about the vitamin and following the advice of your doctor, verify safety and accuracy of the pills themselves by visiting watchdog site ConsumerLab.com and looking for a seal of approval (also issued by United States Pharmacopoeia and NSF International) on bottles. If that brand hasn’t been tested, common sense says don’t buy it.
- Use common sense when choosing which supplements to take. Vitamin supplements are often unnecessary if your DRI for the specific nutrient is being met and, depending on supplement, can be harmful as well as excessive. Overconsumption is in fact common. Many foods are now already fortified with extra nutrients, boosting curbside appeal to the health conscious but simultaneously creating a situation in which many of us may already be meeting or exceeding our DRI without realizing it. If you buy folic acid-fortified grains, for example, reconsider the inclusion of folic acid in your vitamin routine. But if you’re not eating the recommended amounts of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fruits – the natural providers of many of the vitamins our bodies need – multivitamins and supplements provide the next-best option and should become an entrenched part of your daily routine. Most people take multivitamins because they’re the easiest, but it may be best for you to switch to a regime that better matches your eating habits.
- Talk to your doctor, especially if you take prescription drugs, have a condition, or think you might. Both multivitamins and individualized supplements have the potential to adversely interact with other drugs in your body. Vitamin overdoses are rare, but they are most acute in these cases and are affected by the current status of your health. Pregnant women, for example, have different needs than post-menopausal women. Your doctor should be able to help you work out your specific needs.
Do your best to match your diet with your body’s needs, but don’t be afraid to take a daily vitamin as long as you do your research and use your head. Vitamin supplements are there to be taken advantage of for those who need them; the trick to reaping the many positive benefits vitamins have to offer lies simply in tailored and cautious consumption.