Medical science has always known that nutrition plays a key role in the development of a variety of diseases. We recognize that nutrients must be provided by the diet in adequate amounts otherwise deficiency syndromes will appear. What is becoming more apparent is the fact that nutrient requirements are frequently higher than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) because of variable accessibility of the nutrient form in food and inefficiency in intestinal absorption.
It is also becoming apparent that nutrient requirements change as we mature. The result is that a growing number of scientific organizations no longer believe we can meet the body’s nutritional needs through diet alone. The multivitamin has emerged as an excellent means of complimenting good nutrition to guarantee adequate intake of essential nutrients.
The body requires both macronutrients and micronutrients. Protein, fats and carbohydrates are examples of macronutrients. They provide the energy and the protein the body needs. Most Americans eat a diet that contains more than enough fats and carbohydrates to meet the body’s energy needs. We also have no problem meeting the body’s protein requirements. This is important because there are no body stores for protein and protein has many structural and functional roles in the body.
Whenever the macronutrient requirements of the body are not met there are obvious symptoms. The individual begins to experience muscle weakness, fatigue, hunger and weight loss. These symptoms occur rapidly and continue to worsen until the deficits are corrected. This is not always the case in micronutrients deficiency states.
A micronutrient is defined as a vitamin and/or mineral found in the diet essential for normal body function and repair. The body requires a daily supply of these vitamins and minerals. The body is unable to synthesize any mineral and is only able to produce vitamin D and vitamin A in small amounts. The vast amount of essential micronutrients must come from our diet. The good news is that a portion of the daily requirement for some micronutrients can come from a storage depot.
This is fine for those vitamins and minerals which have small daily requirements but relatively large body stores. However, when most micronutrient deficiencies begin there are no symptoms until the body’s storage depot for that nutrient is depleted. For example, iron deficiency anemia suggests a chronic blood loss somewhere in the body, likely the gastrointestinal system or by menstruation.
However, symptoms do not occur until very late in this process. The post-menopausal women may have no symptoms of her calcium deficiency prior to experiencing a fracture. This delayed onset of symptoms, for months or even years, has troubled nutritional scientists because we know that micronutrient deficiencies occur in many of the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. In addition, there are mineral deficiencies of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iodine, chromium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and selenium that occur.
Micronutrient needs change at certain times in our lives and the body’s ability to absorb micronutrients decreases with age, which concerns nutritional scientists about the adequacy of diet alone to provide adequate intake levels. The research shows that inadequate micronutrients contribute to heart disease, cancer, anemia, osteoporosis, blindness, neuropathies and dementia.
The solution to adequate micronutrient intake is a multivitamin. The time has come to accept the fact that we can design a supplement to specifically meet the body’s needs at the proper time. The prenatal vitamin has become a medical standard of care because it contains the necessary micronutrients pregnant women require. We can do the same thing for men and women of all ages. The multivitamin becomes the nutritional insurance policy for the body, supplying the adequate vitamins and minerals needed for healthy living and top performance. This can be done in a safe and effective way.
A multivitamin has established itself as one of the best preventive medicine strategies we have. It does not become a substitute for a healthy diet, but it has proven its usefulness in producing healthier lives. Those individuals committed to eating well and exercising regularly still need to trust the science and realize that, as they age and continue to push their bodies to perform, they desperately need to replenish their essential micronutrients. The remedy is simple - take a multivitamin.
- Manual of Nutritional Therapeutics (2nd ed.). 1998; D.H. Alpers, R.E. Clouse, W.F. Stetson.