MULTIVITAMINS NEEDED OR NOT

June 20, 2019

MULTIVITAMINS: NEEDED OR NOT?

ThedaCare Provider Discusses Options

BERLIN, Wis – The sale of multivitamins and dietary supplements is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, totaling more than $36 billion, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is estimated more than 35 percent of the population takes a daily multivitamin or dietary supplement.

Kirsten Grove, DO, family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Berlin, explains most people don’t need a multivitamin.

“People who eat a well-balanced diet likely don’t need additional vitamins,” she said. “Instead they should focus on eating whole foods, not pre-packaged and processed foods. Whole foods are the best sources for our bodies to get the vitamins and minerals we need. Our bodies know how to metabolize and process nutrients from those sources much more efficiently than from a multivitamin.”

Dr. Grove stressed that people need to be very honest with their medical providers about any vitamins or supplements they take.

“Just because a product is available over the counter and doesn’t need a prescription doesn’t mean it’s safe or that it might not interact with other medications you’re taking,” she said. “There could be complications even going into surgery, such as increased risk of bleeding, if your doctor doesn’t know what you’re taking.” 

She noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate multivitamins and supplements.

“The FDA doesn’t have authority to approve, regulate, or test these products to make sure they are safe and effective,” said Dr. Grove. “I understand it can be very confusing for people because there is so much advertising surrounding supplements and multivitamins. Companies can claim benefits without having these claims scientifically proven or backed by the FDA.”

She gave an example of a potential product that could lead to problems.   

“St. John’s Wort is a popular supplement often used for treating depression,” she said. “It is known to interact with many other drugs. The bottom line is always talk with your provider. Be honest and let them know everything you’re taking.”

She noted there are specific groups of people the medical community recommends taking vitamins:

  • Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant soon, who should be taking folic acid.
  • Infants who are exclusively being breastfed; those infants should receive
  • Vitamin D.
  • People with intestinal absorption issues, such as those with Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or those who have had bariatric surgery.
  • Vegans, and those on very restrictive diets.
  • Those who are malnourished or live in area of malnutrition.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, found on the Health.gov website, offers the following guidance:

  • Focus on a healthy eating pattern across your lifespan.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount of food.
  • Limit calories from added sugars, saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas) and starchy
  • Whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas) and nuts, seeds, and soy products

“Just taking vitamins or supplements because you think you might need them may cause more harm than good,” said Dr. Grove. “Please have a conversation with your provider.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.