Do multivitamins really work? Do you need to take one? Dr. Andrew Myers answers your questions.

In December of last year, the media reported on a few research articles questioning the health value of multivitamins. Since then, a number of credible experts have shown shortcomings of the anti-multivitamin research. In short, the way these studies were designed makes their negative findings questionable.

Still, over the last several months, a number of members have written me, asking questions like, Are multivitamins a waste of money? and Why is there so much negative press on multivitamins? In response, I’ll offer a different perspective on multivitamins to help you make an informed choice about your health needs.

Q: Should I take a multivitamin?

A: While some experts say you can meet all of your nutritional needs through diet alone, this idea doesn’t hold true for most Americans.

One study analyzed the eating habits of more than 65,000 people over a period of 12 years. The researchers found that eating at least seven servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day was linked to a 42 percent lower risk of death from all causes, compared to eating less than one portion daily.

Seven servings is about three and a half cups of fruit and vegetables each day. Do you eat that much? To find out, keep a journal of the food you eat for one week. Then, review your fruit and vegetable intake. The majority of Americans fall far short of that amount, which means they aren’t getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. Taking a daily multivitamin can help make up for those nutritional gaps in your diet.

Even if you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you still need to consider two other factors: lifestyle and environment. Stress, pollution, secondhand cigarette smoke and myriad other factors increase your nutritional needs, meaning you need even more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to stay well. Consider a multiple vitamin (multivitamin) and mineral formula as nutritional insurance to help prevent disease and live a long, vital life.

Q: Are multivitamins really beneficial?

A: There is plenty of positive research that has been published about taking multivitamins. For example, The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study looked at 23,943 subjects who took antioxidant vitamin supplements for an average of 11 years. The results? Individuals who took antioxidant multivitamins were 48 percent less likely to die from cancer and 42 percent less likely to die from any cause, compared to those who didn’t take antioxidant vitamins.

From a biochemical standpoint, there is no question that the human body needs a consistent supply of quality nutrition. Deficiencies in any single nutrient can have a negative impact on health across a number of different systems, including the immune system, cardiovascular system and nervous system, to name a few.

Our scientific understanding of human nutrition has defined the essential vitamins and minerals you need to consume each day for your body to do its job. Although you need small amounts of each, all of these essential vitamins and minerals are critical to the function of the body, the manufacture of cells and tissues, and the activity of enzymes. Basically, they keep you well.

A daily multivitamin is a healthy and supportive choice. Regardless of what the media decides to showcase, know that research supports the benefits of taking a multivitamin. And it makes logical sense, considering the increased needs created by today’s modern lifestyle.

Dr. Andrew Myers is an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of The New Heart Health and the Health Is Wealth series.