January 2003 (PDF)
Who says Americans cant think for themselves?
For decades, health experts have issued platitudes like you dont need vitamins if you eat a balanced diet. Yet an estimated 40 percent of Americans take a supplement, and its most likely to be a multivitamin/mineral. Theyre no fools.
It makes sense to get roughly the Daily Values for most vitamins and minerals just in case you dont get them from food. Thats especially true for women because, on average, they eat less food than men.
Whats more, many people run short on some key nutrients, possibly raising their risk of heart disease or birth defects (folic acid), weakened bones (vitamin D), or irreversible nerve damage (vitamin B-12).
Of course, you cant expect a supplement to make up for a lousy diet. Vitamins or no vitamins, you still have to eat enough fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, poultry, and fish. And you still have to limit fatty meats and dairy products, pastries, commercially fried foods, and sweets.
But a healthy diet and a supplement may be the best of both worlds. The question is which supplement... or supplements?
Its not as simple as taking 100 percent of the DV for everything. We already get too much of some nutrients, and some others wont fit into a multi (unless you have to take six a day). Heres how to sort out the good from the not-so-good multis.
Those minimums shouldnt be hard to find. But many supplementsincluding most by brands like KAL, Natrol, Puritans Pride, Schiff, and Solaraysupply little or no vitamin K, which may help strengthen bones. Our Best Bites had more than 30 percent of the DV for K. If your diet is rich in vegetablesespecially leafy green onesyou dont need vitamin K in your multi. (Note: if you take blood-thinners like Coumadin, tell your doctor before taking any vitamin K. It may alter the dose of Coumadin you need.)
We didnt require 100 percent of the DV for magnesium for one good reason: it wouldnt fit into a single pill. (More-than-one-a-days may appeal to some, but theyre typically more expensive.) Best Bites could get by with only 25 percent of the DV for magnesium.
Its worth taking selenium separately because we couldnt find a multi with 200 mcg of the same high-yeast selenium that appeared to reduce the risk of lung, colon, and prostate cancer (so far, in only a singlebut compellingstudy). Any form of selenium may turn out to be as good, but so far, no one knows. The form of selenium used in the study is SelenoExcell.
Iron is more complicated, because there is no amount thats right (or wrong) for everyone. No Best Bite had more than the DV (18 mg). But many peoplemen and postmenopausal women, who dont menstruateshould look for zero to 10 mg to lower the risk of iron overload and (although the evidence is still weak) possibly heart disease and cancer. Iron in supplements may also cause constipation.