Should Texans Be Taking Multivitamins?

Individuals in Dallas, Houston, Austin and elsewhere in Texas have probably heard that a multivitamin every day might help you live longer.

Unfortunately, many industry supplement industry watchdogs have recently found that more than half of the 21 multivitamins tested had too much, or too few, of certain vitamins. Or worse yet, had been contaminated with dangerous substances like lead. In addition, a recent, yet controversial paper from European researchers, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, made the claim that taking vitamins may actually shorten your life. So what's the real story about multivitamins?

For years, vitamins have been recommended to all age groups because they help you get key nutrients if your diet is insufficient regarding fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, they may even help prevent cancer and heart disease. It is not very likely that a critical paper -- hypothesizing that vitamin supplements might upset your body's natural healing process and boost your risk of death -- will change that at all.

Longtime vitamin experts continue to say that multivitamins are not dangerous. The paper analyzed previous studies that included people who were sick before taking the vitamins. That could mean that there is a good chance vitamins were not responsible for shortening their lives. Experts say the paper also ignored two major studies that found vitamins reduced the risk of death.

At the same time, a recent study shows that you can't assume that any vitamin is safe. Currently, there are not uniform manufacturing rules for supplements, so a multivitamin may not include what the bottle says it does. This means it could be contaminated with a substance from the manufacturing facility.

So what can you do? How about avoiding multivitamins on a popular online list? Or ingesting only vitamins from established and trusted manufacturers? These have been tested, were found to be free of impurities and accurately labeled. Also, check vitamin bottles for the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP), NSF International (NSF), or ConsumerLab (CL) stamps of approval. The USP and NSF are nonprofit groups that verify whether or not companies offer contamination-free products and incorporate the proper manufacturing processes. Not all brands have these seals of approval. Some manufacturers don't want to submit to testing. Those that do -- Kirkland and Nature Made -- carry the USP seal and are reliable.

Does a big price equal big benefits?
No. A high price doesn't mean quality. Some of the highest priced vitamins - such as The Greatest Vitamin in the World and Eniva Vibe -- cost more per bottle. But they failed the tests. Popular brands, including One-A-Day Women's, are usually cheaper per bottle of 100 tablets.

If you're a woman living in Texas and are in your childbearing years, your multi- vitamin should have 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. This assists in making and maintaining new cells. Pregnant women should take a vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid daily to reduce the chance of birth defects like spina bifida.

If you're on a prescription medicine, talk to your doctor about drug interactions. With vitamin E, there may be a problem if you're taking a blood thinner. If you have cancer, ask your doctor about assumed risks before taking vitamins. Cancer grows with some vitamins and others can interfere with chemotherapy.

Check that the amount per serving numbers on the label should match the government's Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). If they're higher, it's okay as long as they don't exceed the tolerable upper limit (UL). Most vitamins are listed in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg), but the label may use IUs (international units) for vitamins A, D, and E. The DRI for vitamin A are 2,300 IUs, 200 for D, and 22 for E. Please keep in mind that the % Daily Value column has not been updated since 1968.

Minding your health will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually will affect your wallet as well

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