The nutrients not covered here are usually found in good supply in all multivitamins or are easily found in foods. Also, when choosing a multivitamin, be sure to check that it is free from added sugar, preservatives or colourings. A childproof cap is always a wise addition.
Start here, because iron is vital for all-round good health and stamina and is critical for healthy blood and preventing anaemia. Premenopausal women who lose iron through menstruation need the most. Other people don’t need much, unless they have iron-deficiency anaemia. High levels may be associated with an increase in heart attacks and possibly an increase in colon cancer. Iron supplements may cause nausea and constipation. If your breakfast cereal is heavily fortified with iron, you may not need iron in your supplement. Recommended level: no more than 16 mg if you’re premenopausal and no more than 7 mg if you’re a postmenopausal woman or a man of any age.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene
Vitamin A is actually a cluster of compounds called retinoids that have varying degrees of vitamin A ‘activity’. One of the most active of these retinoids is beta-carotene, a plant pigment. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant, meaning it fights those unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals that have been linked with chronic disease. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A as needed and, as it’s not toxic and does not convert to toxic levels, manufacturers often use it to make up a portion of the vitamin A in supplements. Vitamin A can be toxic at about 10 times the RDI of 750 mcg retinol equivalents. Recommended level: 750 mcg derived from both betacarotene and vitamin A.
Large-scale surveys show that men and women aged 50 and over get only about half the folic acid they need. This B vitamin appears to protect us from heart disease by reducing blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which contributes to clogging of the arteries. Low blood levels of the vitamin have been linked with cervical and colon cancer. And 15–38 per cent of people with depression are deficient in it. Folic acid seems to improve the efficacy of Prozac and similar antidepressants. Recommended level: 200 mcg (350–400 mcg during pregnancy).
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