Adequate versus optimum nutrition
The notion of 'optimum nutrition' is becoming more popular, with people realising there is a difference between 'adequate nutrition' – the levels of nutrients you need to avoid deficiency – and the level of nutrients your body could use to thrive.
Nutritionist Fiona Hunter says, '35 years ago I was taught that vitamin C was needed to prevent scurvy, a deficiency disease that was common in the 18th century among sailors who undertook long sea voyages, but a condition which fortunately is very rarely seen in 21st Century Britain. We were also taught that it was possible to get all the vitamin D we needed from the action of sunlight on skin, but we now know that this is very unlikely – particularly in the UK from September through to March. Nutrition is an evolving science and new research is being published all the time which shows that vitamins and minerals do so much more than simply prevent deficiency diseases.'
The multivitamin has you covered when it comes to shortfalls in your diet when you don’t eat all the right foods. After all, it's impossible to eat perfectly every single day.
The shortfalls in our diet
Diet should always come first but sometimes – whether it’s because you’re working late or just incredibly busy – our diet doesn’t cover all the bases.
Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director at Healthspan says, 'According to research a mere 27% of adults, 35% of older adults and 8% of 11-18 year olds meet the '5-a-day' recommendation for consumption of fruit and veg, despite the newly implemented recommendation of '10-a-day.'
And it's not just us that are the problem. A paper published in the Journal Hort Science in 2009 suggested that the nutritional content of some fruit and veg may have dropped by as much as 40% in the last 70 years. Another report published by UK nutritionist Dr David Thomas found that levels of iron, copper and calcium in vegetables had decreased by up to 76% since 1940. His research revealed that in vegetables, levels of magnesium had dropped by 25%, calcium and copper by 75%, in fruit iron had dropped by 25% and copper by 20%.
If you know your diet isn’t as good or as varied as it should be, due to cutting back on food intake to lose weight, or avoiding certain foods or food groups due to personal beliefs, intolerances or dislikes, a multivitamin and mineral supplement can correct your nutritional deficiencies.
Choose a multivitamin for your age
Select a product designed for your gender and also your age, as those designed for the over 50s have boosted levels of nutrients to account for the reduced absorption that becomes increasingly common as you get older. National Diet and Nutrition Surveys show that significant numbers of people have low intakes of vitamin A, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium, for example, while over 40% of younger women have low iron intakes. In fact, there is evidence of iron-deficiency anaemia in 5% of older girls and 3% of adult women and older women, according to NDNS research.
If you dislike or have trouble swallowing tablets, don't worry - multivitamins are available as tasty chewable gummies, too.