Health Watch -- The Vitamin Question

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Does taking a daily vitamin make you healthier, or is it a waste of money?

Taking a daily multivitamin is a habit for many people. Vitamin advertisements promise that taking vitamins will help make you look and feel your best. But do you really need a vitamin supplement?

If you eat a balanced diet, then probably not according to nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. If you're eating a variety of foods from all of the food groups and eating a reasonable amount of food, you're probably getting all the nutrition you need from food.

Some people, however, may need a little help. That includes people on a restricted diet who have cut out whole categories of food or who are eating a very low-calorie diet. Vegetarians, dieters and people with food allergies might fit into that category. Other people who might need a daily multivitamin are people who have a chronic illness or who are recovering from illness or injury. Pregnant women are encouraged to take pre-natal vitamins.

What about those "stress vitamin" supplements you see in stores? Dr. Scott Grundy, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UT Southwestern, says those vitamins are formulated for people dealing with physical stress, such as injury or surgery. These supplements are rich in B vitamins, which aid in energy metabolism to aid healing. These vitamins won't help you handle psychological or emotional stress.


March 2004