Say Yes To Multivitamins

In June 2002, a landmark article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recommended that all adults take multivitamin supplements to help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis (2002, vol. 287, no. 23). With so many jars on the store shelves, however, how do you choose the right multivitamin? Take this quiz to find the best balance for you.

People over 50 and vegetarians might be deficient in what vitamin?

They may need additional vitamin B12, found in animal food sources. Vegans may benefit from additional calcium, too.

If you are female, postmenopausal, and not taking hormones, what vitamins and minerals do you need to protect against osteoporosis?

Take vitamins D and K, plus calcium and magnesium. Taking vitamin D and calcium together is especially wise because vitamin D is one of the main regulators of calcium absorption.

Birth control pills deplete what essential vitamins?

Studies have shown that taking estrogen increases the body's utilization of B vitamins, so the total daily requirement for Bs increases.

Can I overdose on specific vitamins?

You have to take a lot more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for an extended period of time to develop toxicity. However, extra amounts of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, copper, and zinc, can cause problems when they're stored in the liver. Excessive doses of vitamin E can cause headaches, and very high doses of vitamin D and A can be toxic.

What vitamins could decrease the chances of getting Alzheimer's disease?

In one study, researchers found that older adults deficient in vitamin B12 or folate had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Researchers also found that supplementing with vitamin E slowed the progression of Alzheimer's.

Should I take a multivitamin with iron?

With the exception of endurance athletes, most men over 20 don't need iron supplements. Most women who have stopped menstruating don't need to bother with iron either. Consult your health care practitioner if you think you have an iron deficiency.

Is one multivitamin a day enough?

If you eat a well balanced diet, yes! According to the JAMA article, almost 80 percent of Americans do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily that would provide enough vitamins and minerals. Your goal is to take in at least the recommended daily value for each vitamin and mineral, ideally through a combination of food and supplements.

—Pamela Emanoil