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The scientific basis behind multivitamins

Sep 13, 2022

By Muhammad Bham
13:09:2022

The most consumed supplement worldwide is multivitamins. Many people have a mindset that multivitamins can improve health, helping mitigate the bad diet choices we make and preventing certain chronic illnesses.

But what is the science behind this?

Speaking to Radio Islam, Dr Suhina Heeralal, a graduate from the University of Witwatersrand who

has additional clinical experience in emergency medicine, internal medicine, and paediatrics, said multivitamins is a general term used to describe any form of dietary supplement. It is, in fact, a misnomer as these supplements and tablets don’t contain vitamins only but could contain minerals, calcium, or elements such as oil and zinc.

One of the reasons it’s the most consumed supplement or over-the-counter medication is because it covers a vast range of ingredients and is sought after as it allows people to take their health into their own hands. Often, it is seen as a quick fix for any condition they have, like tiredness, fatigue, imperfect skin and hair, or even a chronic condition.

A healthy diet should give you all the minerals, vitamins, and everything your body requires, but people fall for the marketing ploys due to misinformation.

A common belief is that one can’t overdose on multivitamins or even abuse them or that there are no side effects from using them. The truth is contrary to those beliefs, according to Dr Hiralal, who explained that most multivitamins are water-soluble, which makes them quickly absorbed and easily excreted.

Commonly used vitamins like Vitamins C and B fall in this category but should the dosage for vitamin C goes over 2g per day, the body may not be able to be flushed out of the system. It can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches, the side effects of overdosing.

Iron supplements are another common over-the-counter medicine that can be abused, sometimes unintentionally. These are fat soluble, which means they are stored in the body much longer, causing harm to the body. An overdose could cause vomiting, diarrhoea, internal bleeding, organ failure and iron poisoning at extremely high doses.

Her advice: if there is no deficiency, no supplements are needed.

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