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Are Multivitamins Good for You?

Even if you are not familiar with the majority of dietary supplements that are available for sale, you have probably heard of multivitamins. If you take a multivitamin or are considering taking one, you should know what these vitamins are, how they benefit you and whether you really need one. Like all dietary supplements, you should talk to your doctor before you add a multivitamin to your diet.

Although the exact formulas of each commercially sold multivitamin may differ slightly, the vast majority of multivitamins all provide similar nutrition. Dr. Jane Higdon, a research associate at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, explains that multivitamin supplements contain 100 percent of the daily value of the majority of the vitamins and minerals that are regarded as "essential" for your body. Essential means your body cannot make these vitamins on its own.

The Harvard School of Public Health explains that multivitamins provide "insurance" against nutritional deficiencies. Harvard believes that taking a multivitamin is a great way to make sure you are getting all the nutrients that you need but notes that in no way should a multivitamin replace a healthful balanced diet. Multivitamins, similar to other dietary supplements, are supposed to replace or "supplement" nutrients that your body requires but is not getting from solid food. Harvard regards taking a multivitamin as a better and safer practice than taking several individual megadosed vitamins or "super" supplements that provide unnecessarily high concentrations of nutrients.

If taken as directed, multivitamins should not produce side effects or present serious dangers. Exceeding the directed doses, however, can lead to side effects because certain vitamins are toxic at high doses. The risk is especially high with fat-soluble vitamins that are stored in fat tissue. Colorado State University states that taking megadoses of vitamins A, D, E or K can be toxic. Also, if you take a multivitamin and eat a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, there is a chance that you could be unintentionally getting an excessive amount of a certain vitamin or mineral. For example, a multivitamin may provide you with 100 percent of your daily requirement for folic acid. If you eat a healthful diet with a lot of whole-grain foods that are enriched with folic acid, you may be ingesting overly high amounts of this nutrient. Folic acid has no known toxic levels however.

In most cases, taking a multivitamin as directed will not hurt you and can only help your health and wellness. Still, you should speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine whether you really need to be taking a multivitamin or any other nutritional supplement. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare in the United States.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.