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Julie A. Wilczynski: Actively Participate in Your Health Care

by on September 30, 2012 6:32 AM

There are doctors who recommend that all adults take a daily multivitamin.

Studies show that there is a relationship between adequate vitamin intake and various diseases published between 1966 and 2002. This study concludes that suboptimal levels of vitamin intake are associated with increased risk of contracting a variety of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

This is true even when intakes are high enough to prevent classical symptoms of deficiency diseases like scurvy, beriberi and rickets.

The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, of various vitamins is intended to prevent deficiency disease, not to provide an optimal level of vitamin intake. It has long been known that the elderly, the sick, and people on restrictive diets are vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies. However, the "normal diet" of more than two-thirds of Americans does not include the recommended daily intake of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Only those eating a "super-perfect" diet are likely to get all the vitamins they need from their food.

Excessive dosage levels can also have toxic effects. Many traditional and allopathic doctors may view vitamins as an alternative therapy or may not appreciate the importance of vitamin deficiencies and may therefore overlook the value of recommending multivitamins to their patients.

  • Too little folic acid, along with insufficient vitamins B6 and B12 are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, neural tube defects, and colon and breast cancer.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D contribute to osteopenia (decreased bone density) and fractures. Insufficient levels of the antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, E, and C) may increase risk for several chronic diseases.
  • It appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements, because most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone.
  • Adults should avoid the dangerous practices of taking high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy or massive doses of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E, D, K) at any age.

Although vitamin deficiency is encountered infrequently in developed countries, inadequate intake of several vitamins is associated with chronic disease.

Reviews of nine vitamins showed that elderly people, vegans, alcohol-dependent individuals, and patients with malabsorption are at higher risk of inadequate intake or absorption of several vitamins. Excessive doses of vitamin A during early pregnancy and fat-soluble vitamins taken anytime may result in adverse outcomes. Inadequate folate status is associated with neural tube defect and some cancers.

Folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are required for homocysteine metabolism and are associated with coronary heart disease risk. Vitamin E and lycopene may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Vitamin D is associated with decreased occurrence of fractures when taken with calcium.

Some groups of individuals, adults and children, are at higher risk for vitamin deficiency and suboptimal vitamin status. Many physicians may be unaware of common food sources of vitamins or unsure which vitamins they should recommend for their patients. Vitamin excess is possible with supplementation, particularly for fat-soluble vitamins. Inadequate intake of several vitamins has been linked to chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, cancer, and in adult’s osteoporosis.

A simple questionnaire going over family history and current symptomatology will aid in determining if you are meeting your needs of vitamins and minerals and dietary fats. If you would like to determine if you are getting correct levels send me an email requesting the “Optimal Nutrition Questionnaire.”

Julie A. Wilczynski is a correspondent for the Centre County Gazette. She is a traditional naturopath, counselor of natural health, certified nutritional consultant, certified personal trainer and yoga and pilates instructor from Butler, Pa. For more information or for help in creating your own personalized healthy lifestyle program, contact Julie at
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