You don't need a multivitamin if you eat a healthy, balanced diet
In a perfect world, everyone would eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The body absorbs nutrients better when they're in actual food -- plus, fruits and vegetables have hundreds of disease-fighting phytonutrients you won't find in a capsule.
But the reality is that most #saddesklunches aren't high in fresh produce. "Most Americans don't eat organic or healthy; therefore a supplement can be used to replace the missing nutrients," Dr. Schreiber says.
So yeah. You probably need to shell out for a multivitamin, ideally one with the NSF- or USP-verified mark. "Make sure it's tested by an independent organization," says Dr. Robert Silverman, who has a masters of science in nutrition. "I only carry companies that have third-party certifications."
Supplements are regulated
This is technically true in theory, but not so much in practice. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was signed in 1994, which established a special category for supplements. Under this law, supplements aren't regulated as drugs by the FDA; instead, they are considered foods, hence the name dietary supplements. Supplements don't have to go through the same rigorous approval process that drugs do, Eftang says, meaning there's often no consistency from batch to batch. This is why you'll see phrases on vitamin bottles that proclaim, "Supports a strong immune system*" with the asterisk pointing to a statement that says, "Claims have not been evaluated by the FDA."
"Supplements are not tested first in humans and only after they have caused injuries that are reported to the FDA can actions be undertaken to protect the public," notes pathologist Dr. Matilde Parente.
Even if you do report a problem to the FDA, it's kind of the Wild West in supplement county, and there's only one sheriff. "It's not that they don't have regulation," Eftang explains. "It's that the FDA does not have the man hours to monitor everyone." Keep that in mind the next time you're at the drugstore seeking a quick, supposedly natural fix for whatever ails you.
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Missy Wilkinson is probably going to finish off her batch of fat-burning supplements, just in case. But after that, she's done. Follow her rants on Twitter.