I regularly have patients ask me this question: “Should I take a multivitamin?”
When you see what I see all day, you wonder why anyone would NOT take a multivitamin. Chronic illness, chronic fatigue, chronic “I Don’t Feel Good” is everywhere. I am convinced that these problems are largely due to our terrible diet. When I hear doctors and other “experts” telling people they can get all the nutrition they need from their diet, I wonder how good THEIR diet is. Do they get 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables EVERY day? Do they stay completely away from processed and convenience foods? Do they eat fatty fish twice a week EVERY week? Do you?
Look at it this way. Do you think it’s prudent to wear your seatbelt in the car? Why? Don’t you drive safely? Of course you do, but even if you’re the safest driver in the world, accidents happen and you’re not always in control of everything that happens on the road. Other people’s decisions impact you, mechanical failures happen, etc.
The truth is that you’re not in control of the food you eat either. The food industry has been getting steadily worse over the last 50 years. It’s well documented that the food we eat is much less nutritious nowadays. This is partly because of overfarming and agribusiness, partly because foods are shipped longer distances and stored longer before being sold and consumed, and partly because of overprocessing of foods and the addition of artificial substances to increase their shelf life. The days of growing your own “Victory Garden” or shopping for fresh produce at the local farmer’s market are largely over.
I look at a good quality multivitamin as a nutritional “seatbelt.” Just like I wouldn’t tell someone they can drive like an idiot as long as they’re wearing their seatbelt, I also don’t tell them they can eat like an idiot as long as they take a good multivitamin. You need to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, choose whole-grain bread/pasta/rice, lean meats, lowfat dairy and eat organic when you can (especially dairy). Shop at the farmer’s market to get local produce as close to the field as you can (look for Certified Naturally Grown foods which is the small-farmers’ equivalent of organic). And for good measure, take a good multivitamin.