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Ask Tufts Experts August 2019 Issue

Q. You seem to write a lot about supplements not being necessary. Aren’t multivitamins a good thing?

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A. “Multivitamins (which should really be called ‘multi-nutrients’ since the vast majority include vitamins and minerals) only contain what we refer to as essential nutrients—those that our bodies need for growth and maintenance,” answers Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “But there could be other components in the foods we eat that are also essential to our health.

“We know we can grow and maintain body functions by eating a variety of foods that contain all the essential nutrients and other compounds (often referred to as phytochemicals). There are thousands of phytochemicals that we are learning more and more about each day. If you rely on a variety of foods from the different categories, you will likely get all your body needs. If you rely on multivitamins there is no guarantee you will get all your body needs. Relying on food for nutrients should not be difficult or require you to eat things you do not enjoy. There are enough different choices within food categories (and ways to prepare them) that everyone should be able to find things that satisfy their personal preferences—without the need for a side of supplements.”

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