Are multivitamins a waste of money?

Significant research has been undertaken into vitamin supplements and their effects on the human lifespan. Are they worth the money or not?

Are multivitamins a waste of money?
There is no one right answer as individuals’ diets and metabolic deficiencies vary. There are countless varieties of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need and if you have a genuine balanced diet, you’ll be getting these vitamins and minerals from food. However, more health professionals are arguing that a balanced diet is an elusive concept today because our soils have been stripped of essential nutrients, thanks to modern farming practices.

Increasingly, doctors are detecting patients with low Vitamin D and B levels, as well as deficiencies in potassium, iron and magnesium – all elements the body needs to function properly. On the flipside, some brands of multivitamins do not have sufficient concentrations of nutrients to be useful. These junk tablets probably are a waste of money. And, taking too high a concentration of certain vitamins can even cause diseases, such as cancer.

Do Vitamin C and Echinacea fight colds?
As someone who swallows dozens of Vitamin C tablets while under the weather, I was surprised (and frustrated) to see that there is little evidence supporting these ‘cold fighters’.

Some studies have found that Echinacea might be able to help you to get over a cold by half a day and reduce some symptoms, but they’re outnumbered by studies that found no benefits. Additionally, there are three species of Echinacea used in pills and they can contain varying concentrations of flowers, stems or roots. Echinacea can also interfere with prescribed medicines.

Some studies on Vitamin C’s cold-fighting abilities have also found very little supporting evidence. They concluded it could possibly shorten a cold by a few hours if you take it while sick, but the vast majority found it to be no more beneficial than a placebo.

Other research has found that zinc lozenges can shorten the length of a cold by a whole day, especially if taken within 24 hours of symptoms appearing. However, zinc can also cause more serious ailments – if taken as a nasal spray it can even cause permanent loss of your sense of smell.

Vitamins are important. If your diet is limited, perhaps because you are a vegetarian, vegan, lactose or fructose intolerant, ask your doctor to request blood tests to reveal if you have a deficiency that could be corrected with supplements. And be aware that unless your doctor recommends it, you may end up with more health issues if you self-medicate with supplements.

What do you think?

Related articles:
Five best healthy eating articles
Eating well as you age
Dietary supplements putting Australians at serious risk

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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