The World's Healthiest Foods

Is it necessary to take a multivitamin for nutritional insurance?

No, it's generally not a good idea to take a multivitamin as "nutritional insurance" if you have no idea about your current level of nutrient intake from food. There are two basic reasons. First, in the case of many nutrients, excess is just as possible as deficiency. Taking a multivitamin without knowing current intake may easily put you at risk for excess, depending upon your diet. Second, nutrients seldom work in isolation, but rather in combination with each other. Having the right balance (or ratio) of nutrients can be just as important as having enough. There is no reason to assume that the balance of nutrients as packaged in a multivitamin is the balance of nutrients correctly matched to your current, individual needs.

The most effective way to provide nutrients to be used by the body is through whole, natural foods. Our bodies are complex and require a wide array of nutrients to function at their peak. A combination of nutrients working together synergistically provides us with the vibrant health and energy we are all looking for; individual nutrients have not been found to have the same effect.

The combination of nutrient-rich foods in your diet provides the thousands of health protective nutrients - vitamins, minerals, carotenoid and flavonoid phytonutrients and powerful antioxidants that work synergistically to promote optimal health.

That being said, we are not adverse to dietary supplements, and feel that for many people they may be health supportive and even health essential. But our main point is to avoid taking a multivitamin indiscriminately without knowing anything about your own individual needs. As a first step, it would be important to conduct an analysis of your current meal plan and estimate the nutrients and amounts it is and is not providing. You may want to seek the help of a nutritionist, registered dietitian, or other healthcare professional who has extensive experience in this area (and access, if necessary, to nutritional analysis software).

Some people may also have conditions that may require more of a particular vitamin or mineral than can be derived from food. Folate is a good example of a vitamin that is often prescribed to help reduce high homocysteine levels associated with cardiovascular disease. These situations are highly personal and should be undertaken under the care and advice of a healthcare practitioner.