Are multivitamin supplements really necessary? In fact, yes; that’s especially true if your diet is deficient and doesn’t provide adequate nutrition, because they’ll fill in the nutritional gaps your diet doesn’t provide. That doesn’t mean you can eat unhealthily all the time and get away with it, but multivitamin supplements can give you nutritional support if your diet is less than optimal.

Multivitamin supplements include vitamins as well as minerals. The minerals included are important to everyday health, and many people can be deficient in them. They include magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc. Multivitamin supplements also contain many different vitamins, as listed below.

Vitamin A is one of the vitamins multivitamins supplements usually contain. It’s relatively rare to be deficient in vitamin A, unless you are older. You need vitamin A to have your immune system function at its best, and it’s also important to prevent certain types of birth defects and bone loss. However, it can be toxic in large doses, so avoid overuse.

Beta carotene is an antioxidant in multivitamin supplements that helps increase white blood cell numbers and boosts the body’s disease fighting immune activities. Together, vitamin A and beta carotene keep the cells in your eyes healthy.

Folic acid is an especially important nutrient during pregnancy and is included in prenatal multivitamin supplements. If you are deficient in folic acid during pregnancy, your baby can have a low birth weight and will also be at increased risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

The B vitamin family has quite a few members, with most included in multivitamin supplements. Folic acid is one of these, and pyridoxine is another. Vitamin B12 and pyridoxine help control the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine, when high, can contribute to strokes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 can help fight anemia, heart disease and memory loss. Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is important for proper brain function. Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is a preventative for a disease called pellagra. Although pellagra is relatively rare, it can occur in someone who is deficient in niacin; people suffering from pellagra have inflamed mucous membranes, mental confusion, diarrhea, and scaly sores on the skin.

Vitamin C strengthens your immune system and is an antioxidant. It helps keep your skin healthy, and aids in wound healing and in the prevention of scars.

Vitamin D is necessary to properly absorb calcium, a mineral. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, you can experience fractures, bone loss, and a disease called rickets, which can lead to extreme bone pain. The body can manufacture Vitamin D if you have enough sunlight exposure, but it’s usually included in multivitamin supplements because it can be difficult to get. However, it’s toxic in large doses, so be careful how much you take.

Vitamin K, too, is another important vitamin, and its deficiency can cause osteoporosis (brittle bones), easy bruising, and bleeding.

Along with vitamin D and vitamin K, calcium is a mineral found in many multivitamin supplements. It is necessary for building and maintaining adequate bone mass. Consuming enough calcium reduces the risk of bone fractures in older people.

Multivitamin supplements’ labels may say that they provide more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance of specific vitamins, but it’s important to be careful not to overdo taking in these vitamins. Most multivitamin supplements’ levels are safe to take on a daily basis, but if you supplement vitamins individually, you could unwittingly overdose on vitamins, thus incurring significant risk.

Although it’s possible that your diet provides 100% of your recommended daily allowance of the necessary vitamins and minerals, it’s relatively rare that any one person can do so every single day, especially with the lives most of us lead. There are lots of different multivitamin supplements available on the market, and you may need to do some research to decide which one is best for you. If you experience side effects when you begin to take a multivitamin supplement, stop taking the supplement and see if the problem subsides. If it does, ask your doctor to recommend a multivitamin supplement for you.

There are about a dozen different vitamins and minerals recognized as important for humans to consume. If you are shortchanged on any of them for a significant amount of time, you could begin to experience deficiency symptoms. And again, multivitamin supplements can prevent these types of deficiencies, but are still no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, one that includes good nutritious food and exercise, too.

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