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Do I need a multivitamin?

 In Ask an Expert, Internal Medicine, Pulse Blog

Q: Should I be taking a multivitamin every day?

One of the medications I commonly see in my patients’ charts is a multivitamin. This is due to the widely held belief that our diets fail to provide sufficient vitamins and minerals. In fact there was a time when American foods were simple and devoid of many essential nutrients. This gave raise to disorders of the skin, nerves, brain, heart, and thyroid. However, after a successful public health campaign, common foods were fortified and these diseases were eradicated.

Patients may also believe that higher levels of vitamins and minerals reduce or cure many diseases. Numerous clinical trials have sought to reduce cancer, heart disease, strokes, and dementia with dietary supplements. Unfortunately, the studies have failed to show decreases in many common American diseases.

Of course, there are patients who do benefit from vitamin supplementation. Women who are pregnant or lactating, patients with absorption diseases or a history of gastric bypass surgery, individuals who follow a vegan diet, and those who abuse alcohol can benefit from specific supplements. However, unless your physician has indicated that you are at risk for a vitamin deficiency, you can save some money and skip the multivitamin.

—Cole Southworth, DO

Dr. Cole Southworth is an osteopathic physician in Vancouver Clinic’s Internal Medicine Department. He enjoys being a wellness advocate for patients.

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