You’ve probably heard contrary information about taking a multivitamin: some people swear by them, others say it is useless. Even doctors provide differing opinions about whether or not multivitamins do any good.
Yet a myriad of health problems has been linked to nutritional deficiencies: from mental health issues to weakened immune function, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Given all of this data, what vitamins should one take, if any?
The Most Common Deficiencies
The macronutrients (required in large amounts for body function) are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are vitamins–Vitamin A, B, C, calcium, copper, etc.
While many people just say, “Eat a balanced diet” or “Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables” to get all of the nutrition that you need, studies have shown that 75% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily dietary allowances of fruit, and 80% of Americans do not eat the recommended intake of vegetables each day. Keep in mind, those recommended quantities are daily minimums and at least ¾ of Americans do not eat them.
So chances are, you have at least one vitamin deficiency.
However, taking a multivitamin may be a poor approach, because your deficiencies are likely to vary greatly from another person’s.
Here are some key recommendations.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is the most common deficiency in America, with more than 90% of adults failing to meet the daily recommended dosage.
Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Frequent illness
- Back pain, especially chronic lower back pain
- Muscle pain
- Bone density problems or bone loss
- Hair loss
- Hormone issues
For years, Americans have been told to wear sunblock and avoid sunlight. Such measures may help protect against skin cancer, but they’ve been carried to such an extreme that many Americans are not getting sufficient vitamin D.
If you have darker skin, your body may also be less efficient with vitamin D, meaning you need more of it for the same effect.
Too much vitamin D, however, can cause dangerous toxicity. Further complicating matters, your body cannot get sufficient absorbable vitamin D from diet alone.
Vitamin D supplementation, then, is critical. You need it for brain function, mood regulation, immune function, bone health and to protect DNA from damage.
The best approach is to have your vitamin D levels tested and take a D₃ supplement to achieve ideal blood levels.
Vitamin B Deficiency
88% of the US population does not meet their daily requirement of vitamin B. Of those, B6 and B12 deficiency are the most common.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) helps with several neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, etc) and so has been linked to mood, memory, and alertness.
Deficiencies in B vitamins can negatively affect everything from energy and mood to the immune system and sleep.
Fortunately, B vitamins are water-soluble. That means if you get too much your body urinates the extra. The bright yellow color you might observe in your urine generally comes from extra B2 or B12–it’s completely harmless!
You can’t go wrong taking extra B vitamins from a high-quality source.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is another common condition, with approximately 43% of Americans getting less than the daily recommended dosage. Vitamin A deficiency can cause memory problems, mood problems, or even Alzheimer’s disease.
However, excessive vitamin A is also toxic.
For this reason, it is recommended that you get your vitamin A levels tested. If you are deficient, a supplement can rapidly correct the situation. After that, eating a variety of foods rich in vitamin A can keep you from becoming deficient again.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
By now you probably know about “good fats” and “bad fats.” In general, Americans eat fat-rich diets, despite “low-fat diet” crazes of the past, few Americans ever achieved eating a low-fat diet, unless they are vegan.
The fat that adult Americans really need is Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a better mood, health, and cognitive function.
Animal fats from both meat and cheese do not provide necessary omega-3 fatty acids, and their overconsumption may be part of the imbalance of most American diets. Good sources of omega-3’s include fish, nuts, and plant oils.
Recommended Doses are Just the Beginning
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) provided by the federal government are really only starting points. Once you achieve them, you can supplement with specific nootropics to achieve higher states of physical and mental function.