Victoria BC Dietitian (Nutritionist) Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD Shares What Supplements (Vitamins and Herbs) Fight Cold and flu. To Boost Your Immune SystemRead More
I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.
First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.
However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.
I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.
Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.
Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.
I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.
Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.
Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.
What if I’m not in those two groups?
Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.
Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.
It’s that time of year. Colds are going around. With the holidays picking up we’re going to be susceptible to more of them as we gather for events, get even less sleep, and travel in airplanes, on ferries, etc. Last week I was inspired by some clients to check into what the scientific literature says about supplements and the prevention and treatment of colds. Here’s what I found out about a number of commonly used remedies. An important note is that these results and advice are for adults. Often there isn’t enough evidence regarding effectiveness and safety for kids.
Taking vitamin C daily doesn’t likely reduce the risk of getting a cold for most people. But there is evidence that athletes (i.e. those experiencing extreme physical stress) may get fewer colds. I don’t know about you but I would call lack of sleep and/or travelling to be “extreme physical stress”. As such, I think that taking some extra vitamin C during these times may help reduce the chances of getting a cold. If you do get a cold, taking 200mg or more of vitamin C may reduce how long your cold lasts.
Zinc lozenges likely help reduce the length of a cold. Take 75mg or more of zinc via lozenges starting within 24 hours of your cold symptoms and continue to take them until you feel better. Don’t take high doses of zinc long-term. There isn’t evidence that zinc helps to prevent colds. And, high doses of zinc can interrupt the absorption of other important nutrients.
Taking North American ginseng once you feel a cold coming on may decrease the length of time that your cold lasts. Taking ginseng doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of getting sick.
Taking probiotics strengthens the immune system and can decrease the length of time that you’re sick.
Other Supplements Can Fight Colds
The scientific evidence isn’t supportive for the following. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t work. It may mean that there haven’t been enough studies done, that there are problems with the design of studies, or that there are so many types of a supplement that we can’t make a clear decision based on the studies done to date.
- Echinacea purpurea