Are multi-vitamins a waste of money?

Someone said to me last week that they thought they were sending their money down the toilet when they took a multi-vitamin and asked if they were even important at all or if they just create expensive urine.

There are several things to discuss here, the first being what causes urine to be yellow? First off it is probably because of the B vitamins, and Vitamin C. It is how they oxidize when you pass them through. You pass them out sometimes because your body will rid itself of vitamins that you don’t need. You could argue that you don’t need vitamin B in your multi-vitamin and maybe that is true.

We get vitamin B easily from shellfish, fish, beef, cheese and eggs. This means that vegans have to make other arrangements such as using a red yeast to get their B vitamins. The trouble there is that it is not effective (it takes 5-10 mcg of yeast B12, to get the RDA of 2.4 mcg), but at least it’s something, and B12 is essential for cell division and red blood cell formation, so it is important. Back to our point – when we have more B12 than we need, the body moves the excess out in the urine as it is a water soluble vitamin.

The second reason for the yellow is common — and that is insufficient water intake. If you are well hydrated your urine will be pale yellow. If you are dehydrated your pee will be darker yellow.

The third point, and this is important, is the question about expensive urine.

The vitamin or mineral that you need most is the one that you are low in. The trouble is you have no way of knowing what that is. Cramping could be a magnesium shortage. Dry skin and poor night vision could be Vitamin A and oily skin and pimples could be low B vitamins, etc. Taking a good multi-vitamin will give you some base levels to ensure you have some of the daily requirements. Multi-vitamins do not replace food, let’s be clear – you still need to eat well. Which brings about another question — “Can’t I just eat well and get all the vitamins I need?” Not likely.

There are many reasons for this. Fertilizer practices have changed. Farmers used to tend small parcels of land and use manure and animal or vegetable matter to fertilize.

They also used to leave a parcel of land alone every few years to increase moisture and nutrients by tilling in the weeds and plant matter. Farmers don’t do that anymore due to increasing pressure from production and income requirements. They now use fertilizers such as commercial NPK (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous) and that is an issue as well. There are 22 minerals in soil that our body wants and needs but if we strip out the crops every year for 100 years, taking away 22 minerals, then we just put back three, it doesn’t take long before the only thing in the soil is the three, meaning we are missing 19 minerals in our food – a fact which has been shown in many studies of current nutritional quality of food compared to 60 or 70 years ago.

Further, we get most of our fruits and vegetables from farms or orchards far away six months of the year.

All winter our produce is picked before it is ripe so it can last longer in the truck and in the grocery store before rotting. That means the vitamins are not fully developed because the sun has been removed from the equation.

Bananas, for example, are picked fully green and then sprayed in the truck with ethylene gas on the way to the store, which causes the ripening process. In the wild, the sun does that and creates more vitamins in the process.

So yes, in my opinion, a good quality multi-vitamin is a requirement for good health, a fact that has been supported by the Journal of American Medical Association (July 19, 2002), as well as other medical journals around the world. I think that disease and illness are expensive and vitamins are valuable.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.

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