Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Right Multivitamin

Women, men, those over 50, those with chronic illness, and vegetarians have special needs to consider when choosing a multivitamin. Review your special needs below.

Why Everyone should Take a Multivitamin

There's nothing like a sound, low-fat diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to supply the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, we don't always eat well. Add to that the possible harmful effects of stress, aging, lack of exercise, pollution, and illness, and supplements become even more important. That's why so many experts now recommend that everyone take a daily multivitamin.

The Right Choice: See Our Multivitamin Chart

This chart outlines the key vitamins and minerals your multivitamin should supply and the main benefits of each nutrient. It also gives what's called the daily value (DV) - a new government standard that generally corresponds to the RDA. The DV satisfies minimum daily requirements and helps prevent a deficiency disease, such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C). The higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in many multivitamins may actually help prevent disease, delay its onset, or lessen the severity of certain ailments.

Good Reason to Take an extra-strength Formula

If you eat an optimal diet of low-fat foods, at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and chicken, lean meat, or fish several times a week, you can probably get away with a once-daily formula. But even those who consume a fairly well-rounded diet and yield to junk-food lapses only occasionally can benefit from an extra-strength formula. If your idea of lunch is a slice of pizza and a diet soda, look for a multivitamin in the upper ranges of our chart.
  • Read the label carefully to see what you're getting. Many "high-potency" formulas provide only one
  • Don't pay more for "timed-released" or "related" products. They're not worth the extra cost.
  • Check the serving size. You may need to swallow up to six extra-strength pills a day to get the amounts listed on the label.
  • Don't double up on one-a-days. You'll be getting too much of certain nutrients, and not enough of others. If you want an extra-strength formula, buy one.
  • Avoid megadoses that greatly exceed the upper doses listed in our chart, especially with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; the minerals iron and selenium; or when taking any supplements long term. Be sure to account for any vitamins and minerals you may also be taking as individual supplements or as part of an herbal formula.

Finding the Right Multivitamin for You

VitaminsMain BenefitsDVOne-A-DayExtra-Strength
Vitamin AFights infections; maintains eye and skin health. May be supplied in part as beta-carotene, which may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease and boost immunity. Pregnant women should not take more than 5,000 IU of vitamin A daily, but higher doses of beta-carotene are safe.5,000 IU5,000 IU5,000-10,000 IU (up to 25,000 IU as beta- caratene
Vitamin CFights colds; may help prevent cancer, heart disease, cataracts. If your formula doesn't supply at least 500 mg, consider taking an extra supplement.60 mg60-100 mg100-1,000 mg (up to 25,000 IU as beta- caratene
Vitamin DPromotes healthy bones and teeth; may protect against cancer. Those over 50 should get at least 400 IU and those over 70 need at least 600 IU. Avoid daily doses exceeding 1,000 IU, which may be toxic.400 IU200-400 IU400-600 IU
Vitamin EMay help prevent cancer, heart disease, cataracts. Everyone should get at least 200 IU daily. Avoid doses above 1,200 IU, which can cause headaches.30 IU30-100 IU100-400 IU
Thiamin (B1)Aids energy production; promotes nerve and heart health.1.5 mg1.5-25 mg25-100 mg
Riboflavin (B2)May prevent cataracts and migraines; helps heal rosacea.1.7 mg1.7-25 mg25-100
Niacin (B2)Helps lower cholesterol and improve circulation; fosters healthy nerve cells.20 mg20-25 mg25-100 mg
Vitamin (B6)May prevent heart disease and stroke; maintains nervous system health. Avoid taking more than 200 mg on a daily basis.2 mg2-25 mg25-100 mg
Folic acidPrevents birth defects, heart disease, possibly some cancers. Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant should get at least 600 mcg daily.400 mcg400 mcg400-800 mcg
Vitamin (B12)Promotes nerve health; prevents heart disease. People over 50 and vegetarians should look for formulas that supply at least 100 mcg.400 mcg400 mcg50-400 mcg
Vitamin KPromotes blood clotting; helps strengthen bones.80 mcg0-80 mcg60-300 mcg
BiotinPromotes healthy nails, hair, and nerves.300 mcg0-100 mcg100-300 mcg
Pantothenic acid B(5)Strengthens nerves; promotes energy metabolism.300 mcg0-100 mcg25-100 mcg
BoronBuilds strong bones, teeth, and nails.*0-50 mcg50 mcg-2 mg
CalciumPrevents or slows osteoporosis. Women of all ages and men over 50 need at least 1,200 mg daily. A separate supplement is probably necessary. Avoid daily doses of 2,500 mg or higher.1,000 mg0-25 mg25-400 mg
ChromiumMaintains healthy bolld sugar levels;helps break down fats.120 mcg0-100 mcg100-200 mcg
CopperPrevents cardiovascular disease; maintains bones, tendons, and nerves.2 mg1-2 mg1-2 mg
IronPrevents anemia in younger women. Men and postmenopausal women should opt for iron-free formulas. Vegetarians who avoid all animal products and women with heavy periods should get at least 18 mg a day. Don't exceed 65 mg daily.18 mg0-18 mg0 -18 mg
MagnesiumProtects against heart disease; may ease asthma and diabetes.400 mg100-200 mg200-400 mg
ManganesStrengthens bones; may be good for the heart and prevent seizures.2 mg2-5 mg5-10 mg
MolybdenumHelps the body use iron and burn fats.75 mcg25-65 mcg65-100 mcg
PotasssiumMay help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.3,500 mg5-100 mg5-100 mg
SeleniumHelps prevent cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration; fights cold sores and shingles. Get at least 100 mcg a day, but avoid daily doses above 900 mcg, which can be dangerous.70 mcg0-100 mcg100-200 mcg
VanadiumBuilds bones; may aid people with diabetes.*0-25 mcg25-50 mcg
ZincMay cure colds, relieve prostrate complaints, slow macular degeneration. Vegetarians who avoid all animal products, including dairy and eggs,should aim to get 30 mg. Don't exceed 60 mg daily, shich can be harmful.15 mg15 mg15-30 mg

Special Needs

of all ages need at least 1,200 mg of calcium daily, through supplements or diet, to slow bone loss. Most multivitamins don't supply this much: A separate calcium supplement is probably your best bet. Younger women, especially those with heavy menstrual periods , need plenty of iron (18 mg a day ). Those considering pregnancy should get extra folic acid and avoid high-dose vitamin A. Special "women's formulas" may contain expensive herbs you may not need.

should avoid multivitamins containing iron: Iron build-up has been linked to heart disease. Be wary of "men's formulas that tout ingredients like saw palmetto for prostate complaints : Many of these high-profile "extras" are present in such small amounts that they provide little or no therapeutic benefit.

Over 50,
opt for iron-free formulas: Too much of the minerals can cause heart problems. Look for vitamins B6 and B12 in the higher ranges, because as people age, they often have trouble absorbing these nutrients. Older women and men can benefit from the bone-strengthening effects of extra calcium (1,200 mg a day) and vitamin D (400 to 600 IU a day).

Chronic Illness
can lead to poor eating habits or deplete nutrient stores. Extra-strength formulas are especially important if you suffer from a long-term digestive ailment or have liver or gallbladder problems. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.

who avoid all animal foods, including dairy and egg products, need at least 100 mcg daily of vitamin B12. Zinc, iron, and calcium are also very important minerals for strict vegetarians.

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