Multivitamins: Good or Bad?

A registered dietitian discusses a recent study on multivitamins.

Ursula Ridens is a registered dietitian with Sharp HealthCare. She explained a recent study that discovered that multivitamins do not prevent chronic diseases. Aired Dec. 18, 2013, on KUSI News.

Brandi Williams, KUSI News Anchor: A new study has brought skepticism about the benefits of multivitamins. So Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian from Sharp HealthCare, is here to discuss this study and offer tips on the best way to get the daily nutrients your body needs. Now, Brad was just at Wendy’s and I love me some Wendy’s french fries. Any health benefits from those?

Ursula Ridens, Registered Dietitian, Sharp HealthCare: Hmm, I’d have to think about that one.

Brandi: Is it better to take a multivitamin or to get the vitamins straight from the food?

Ursula: The study that came out yesterday shows us that vitamins and minerals, particularly multivitamins, are not beneficial in terms of preventing chronic disease. So the vitamin and supplement industry is a multibillion dollar industry. Many people take supplements. But we are learning that the general healthy population does not need them.

Brandi: So are we just wasting time and money?

Ursula: Wasting time and money.

Brandi: What about other vitamins, you know? They say to take vitamin C and all the health benefits from that and vitamin D?

Ursula: If you are a healthy individual with no chronic disease, no vitamin or mineral deficiencies, you likely do not need to waste your money there; however, there are some subsets of the population who may have particular conditions or diseases, or perhaps an iron deficiency or B12 deficiency that has been tested by lab work. In those cases, then supplements are probably more indicated there.

Brandi: What about for preventive measures? There have been people who say take vitamin D to prevent breast cancer.

Ursula: Again, the studies are showing in terms of preventing chronic disease there is no benefit.

Brandi: That is kind of sad.

Ursula: So, the other thing is that foods offer the best source of vitamins and minerals. Those are more highly absorbed than the vitamins and minerals that we get through bottles. So in terms of calcium, we are much better off getting calcium through milk, yogurt, kale, dark green leafy vegetables. As far as iron goes, there are wonderful foods that have iron.

Brandi: It’s tricky though, right? Sorry, not to interrupt, but just going back to the kale. They say that it’s best to eat it raw, if you cook it, the vitamins and minerals start to go away.

Ursula: Eat it any way you can.

Brandi: So even a little bit is OK?

Ursula: Any way you can, because you’re going to be eating a variety of foods throughout the day. So you’re not only getting calcium from the kale, but also from other sources. As far as iron goes, an iron-fortified cereal, beans and raisins. The best source is going to be animal sources like beef (lean beef, preferably), chicken, fish. For iron, that’s the highly absorbed type of iron called heme iron. But if you’re vegetarian, then certainly get your iron through these non-animal foods. As far as folate goes, fresh is always best if you can — spinach, avocado, black-eyed peas. The other thing, too, that I want to point out, is that if you do need a supplement, if you are tested low let’s say in vitamin D, you may need a vitamin D supplement. However, you want to look for the USP label. That’s the United States Pharmacopeia verified mark that indicates that it’s been verified for potency, purity. That’s the best way if you need a supplement. But generally speaking, the general population is now, not needing supplements.

Brandi: Ursula, thank you so much. Good stuff, although a little disappointing.

Ursula: I know, interesting. But we can save money now.