Quick fixes, we love them!
As humans, we are not a fan of things that take time and patience, we want things to happen quickly and immediately.
So when it comes to our health, we often can’t be bothered to put in the effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially during university.
Multivitamins is one of the most popular quick fixes for not only students but for many Australians young and old.
Makers of multivitamins market them as helping us to maintain a healthy lifestyle and aim for sporting excellence by sponsoring major events. For example, ‘Blackmores’ is a major sponsor of The Australian Open and The Australian Olympic Team is sponsored by Swisse Vitamins.
With the hundreds of multivitamin bottles offered to the public on shelf, and the wonderful world of Google, it has become easier to impulse buy these products without consulting a professional. But is this doing us any good?
Tiffaney Nish, nutritionist and personal trainer, provided us with some insight of her observations through clients she has had over the years. She highlighted that multivitamins act like a placebo most of the time because “multivitamin tablets are a broad range of vitamins and minerals in low dosages” meaning they do not have as large of an effect on people like single Vitamin D tablets for example.
Ms Nish deals with many clients who complain about being fatigued and wanting more energy, “so they take multivitamins and they feel it works, whether that’s the actual vitamin working or a placebo, it helps them”.
My question to you though is, if these multivitamin tablets act as a placebo, then is it worth taking them?
We complain about the troubles of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, everything from food to exercise. Whether it is money, effort or energy, we seem to have none of it when we’re dealing with university.
“If you cannot maintain a healthy lifestyle for three or four years, how are you going to maintain it for a lifetime post-university life”, Tiffaney Nish explains.
Halla Dadouch, Pharmacist at St Vincent’s Hospital, has dealt with many patients who suffer from vitamin deficiencies, but will not “recommend multivitamins, unless the patient is extremely deficient and does not seem to improve their daily nutrition intake”.
The most common cases Ms Dadouch has dealt with are females, vegetarians, vegans and people of Mediterranean descent who are low in iron, and recommend that iron tablets are safe to take and great for lifting the levels up.
She noted that big brands such as ‘Swisse’ “may have cool sounding vitamins, but they have an extremely low dose”.
Ms Dadouch went on to explain the one key fine print that not many of us bother to read on the back of the bottle, and could save us a lot of money.
There is shelf medicine that is categorised as ‘L’ (listed) and ‘R’(registered).
Listed medicine means the product was tested for quality and safety but does not have any proof or research to show that it will actually work.
Registered on the other hand, has been tested for quality, safety and has enough research to prove that it works on the body.
For example according to the updated Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, ‘Swisse Ultiboost High Strength Probiotic’ vitamins, may sound great and helpful, but it is categorised under ‘Listed’, meaning it does NOT have sufficient research and evidence to prove that it works on the body; it means at the end of the day you might just be swallowing empty pills.
The media industry has massively marketed multivitamins to Australian individuals to the point where it pushes us to think, “If we don’t take them, we’re missing out,” Ms Dadouch explains.
We’re young, we have the time and energy now, we have the ability to prepare a nutritious meal, and keep our vitamin levels up NATURALLY.
You want some advice on how to avoid taking more tablets than you need? We put the question to the experts, and the answer is more obvious than you think.
Ms Nish says “we get all the vitamins and nutrients we need from a balanced diet of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates”, although she also mentioned “when you get older your nutritional needs per kilo of body weight increase, and the digestive system can slow down, meaning absorbing those nutrients becomes harder.”
However, according to the Australian Government website, ‘Better Health Channel’, “eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cereals will give your body the vitamins it needs, at the right level and in the right balance.”
I don’t know about you but I would rather be eating food than swallowing pills for every single vitamin my body needs.
“If you’re swallowing more tablets than you are food, you have a problem”, Ms Nish says.
However, I can understand the concerns you have about your body. Especially when you’re living alone away from your parents and juggling life, you can lose track of things.
Ms Dadouch suggests that although there is no harm in taking multivitamins due to its low dosage, buying a fancy sounding bottle off shelf without consultation is not safe.
“If you’re unsure about medical issues you may be facing, see your GP and get a blood test, especially for young women”, Ms Dadouch explains.
Do your research before you purchase off-shelf products next time.