Taking vitamins has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with hundreds of companies battling to get your money. But determining whether a multivitamin is beneficial to your health is difficult to quantify. A lot of research suggests that vitamins don’t really do much to prevent illness, but they may offer some benefits when it comes to shoring up on minerals that you are lacking. Here’s a rundown of what multivitamins can and can’t do for you.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

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Studies have shown that most multivitamins are passed through your body and come out in your urine without actually doing much good for your body. The reason is that your body is only equipped to absorb a certain amount of vitamins, and the rest is flushed out of your system. So don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re some vitamin superman when you see your urine turn the same color as the multivitamin you just ingested. Chances are high that most if not all of that supplement’s ingredients never made it into your bloodstream.

Balanced Diet Handles Most of What You Need

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The truth is that the reason many people who aren’t ill or who don’t have major mineral deficiencies, pop multivitamins is because they don’t eat a balanced diet. Nearly all the vitamins you need can be found by eating the right kind of food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between meal snacks. For example, if you skip breakfast, then your body tends to want to binge on unhealthy food to satisfy hunger pangs. That’s why starting your day off with oatmeal or egg whites with turkey bacon can jumpstart your body’s metabolism in a good way. A good rule of thumb is to try to hit the major food groups, but to limit red meat intake, and to double up on vegetables, especially dark vegetables such as spinach and broccoli and fruit such as blueberries and blackberries.

Deficiencies Call For Vitamins

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There are some situations in which you do need to shore up your body with multivitamins. For example, people with chronic iron deficiencies, or deficiencies in vitamin D or vitamin C may need to take multivitamins to maintain good health. In addition, if you are someone who doesn’t absorb minerals and vitamins well, you will need to pop multivitamins to ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs. If you are unsure about the vitamins your body lacks, schedule a physical, which will include a blood panel to determine any deficiencies.

The Science Doesn’t Support Supplements

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According to a December 2013 article on WebMD, a trio of studies revealed that people who took daily supplements showed no proclivity toward warding off heart disease, memory loss or early death. In fact, the multivitamins taken by the study’s participants worked no better than a placebo ingested by a control group. What researchers did find, however, is that participants who took large levels of certain vitamins such as vitamin E, were at a higher risk of damaging their body, and increasing their risk of dying at an earlier age.

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Take Vitamin D If You Can’t Go Cold Turkey

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A number of studies have shown that one vitamin that is worth taking is vitamin D. In a February 2014 article in Smithsonian.com, a study was discussed about more than 40 controlled trials that showed a decrease in mortality rates for adults who took vitamin D on a daily basis. In addition, researchers have discovered that children who take vitamin D can decrease the occurrence of the flu, and that adults can increase bone density by taking a vitamin D supplement. And most importantly, there haven’t been any major studies that showed any adverse effects from taking vitamin D, which in and of itself is a sound reason for you to consider adding it to your diet.

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