June 4, 2009
Multivitamins - a safeguard for health
Supplements may benefit those who lead hectic and stressful lives, but you should also have a healthy diet. POON CHIAN HUI reports
Multivitamins and other health supplements are being offered as a perfect solution for today's fast-paced modern lifestyle.
How do you choose one that's best for you?
'While a standard multivitamin is all that a healthy adult needs, some may prefer a supplement that is made for their gender or age group,' said Mrs Vidya Bhat, a dietitian from Nutrition Network Services.
For instance, women's formulas contain extra iron and calcium to replace iron loss through monthly periods and to guard against osteoporosis.
Similarly, Dr Alvin Wong, the medical director of SKN MediAesthetics, recommends a multivitamin that fits your age group. In addition, choose one that has both vitamins and minerals, he added.
Vitamins are essential in bodily processes like bone-building and repairing damaged cells, while minerals should not be left out either as they are important components of body structures, he said.
An example would be calcium, which is needed in bone and tooth formation.
Some vitamins and minerals are also antioxidants, he said. Antioxidants are effective in combating the effects of free radicals which cause damage to body cells. Vitamin C and selenium are examples.
Dr Wong also noted that many working adults lead a hectic and stressful lifestyle where nutrition takes a backseat to work. For example, people sometimes skip meals or they may grab a quick bite in the form of fast food.
Ms Bhat, who agreed, said it is important that supplements do not replace proper nutrition and a healthy diet.
In addition, given the wide array of choices, people should not take multiple supplements unnecessarily or 'overdose' on them, she said.
'Exceeding the prescribed limit will cause adverse effects,' said Ms Bhat. 'Don't overeat under the impression that consuming a huge amount of health supplements can result in a healthy body overnight.'
Yet another point to note is the barrage of conflicting - and hence confusing to the layman - research on multivitamins and their use.
As an example, a 2002 study published in the Journal Of American Medical Association found that multivitamins cut the risk of chronic disease. However, a recent study by the University of Washington found that long-term use of multivitamins, folate, vitamin C and E did not reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Dr Wong takes a cautious approach on this particular issue.
'My view is that it is better to take multivitamins than to miss out on the benefits,' he said.
Plus, taking a multivitamin is cheap and simple. 'The benefits of a multivitamin can be obtained for about 40 cents a day and it takes less than five seconds to swallow it with a glass of water,' said Dr Wong.