You exercise. You eat right. And you don't go wild with the coffee and cocktails.
But even if you're the exemplar of healthy living, you might want to consider working a multivitamin into your daily routine. Despite your best efforts, you may not be getting enough of the nutrients you need.
"Vitamins are basically like oil in the car," says Sohrab Mobarhan, MD, a gastroenterologist with Rush University Medical Center who studies the effects of nutrition on disease. "If you don't have enough of it, you burn your engine."
People who aren't exposed to enough sunlight, for example, may not get enough vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium absorption and bone growth. And aging-related changes in our stomachs may lead to inadequate absorption of vitamin B12, which helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells.
Not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables, meanwhile, can deprive you of sufficient amounts of folate, which is particularly important during pregnancy and infancy. It helps create DNA and RNA – the building blocks of cells – and our bodies need it to make normal red blood cells.
People who need to be particularly careful about getting enough vitamins include pregnant women and those with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease that may interfere with proper vitamin absorption.
But how do you know if you're not getting the vitamins you need? "The problem with vitamin deficiency is that many times people may just feel tired and not realize they have a vitamin deficiency," Mobarhan says.
There's no evidence that taking a daily vitamin is harmful, Mobarhan says, but you don't want to overdo it, either. Excess amounts of folate and vitamins A, D and E, for example, can be hazardous to your health.
"One has to be very careful with those vitamins," Mobarhan says, "and not take more than the recommended daily allowance."
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