Do I need to take a multivitamin if I eat a healthy diet?

Do I need to take a multivitamin if I eat a healthy diet?

Q: Do I need to take a multivitamin if I eat a healthy diet?  

It is difficult to get optimal levels of nutrients from diet alone. Optimum levels of nutrients firstly, should not be confused with the RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance). RDAs are designed to prevent deficiency disease across the population, whereas optimal levels provide nutrients to allow the body to function at peak capacity.

Research carried out by Dr Paul Clayton identified the difference between the nutrients that the average population obtain from food, and the levels required for optimum health. We call this difference the nutrition gap. The nutrition gap can have a detrimental effect on health and wellness and can increase the risk of many conditions.

Bruce Ames hypothesised that if you are depleted in just one nutrient your body will go into a triage response where it will favour survival over long term health. He states “If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, ageing, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact ……. A multivitamin-mineral supplement is one low-cost way to ensure intake of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of micronutrients throughout life.”

Even if your diet is healthy, other factors play a role such as nutrient depletion in foods, and increased physiological needs.

There are many factors influencing the nutrition gap including:

  • A sedentary lifestyle - our ancestors expended about 4000 calories as opposed to an average of 2000 today, therefore they consumed a greater amount of food to meet their energy requirements. As we are now actually consuming fewer calories, we are also consuming fewer micronutrients (e.g. vitamins and minerals)
  • Modern farming methods – soil depletion, transport, storage, GMOs and deep ploughing all effect the nutrient content of food
  • Food choices – we often choose calorie dense but nutrient-poor foods
  • Food processing - processing of food severely depletes nutrient content i.e. the milling of flour reduces calcium, magnesium, zinc and folate
  • Lifestyle choices - smoking, alcohol and stress all deplete nutrients
  • Poor digestive health - reduces our ability to absorb nutrients.

The 1992 Earth Summit Report found that mineral depletion of the soil was over 76% in Europe and 80% in the USA compared to 100 years ago. Hence even foods which are considered healthy do not have the levels of nutrients that we may expect them to. Therefore, it is recommended to take a multi vitamin and mineral supplement daily to ensure that intake of nutrients is at an optimum level.

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21 September 2021
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