During World War II, a shocking number of army recruits were rejected due to malnutrition. Children of the Baby Boom were fed daily vitamin tablets to grow up big and strong. But the world is different now, yet we still buy multivitamin and trendy supplements by the ton. Do we really need to take vitamins?
We all need vitamins, but that doesn’t mean you need to take a vitamin. This week, science gave us another brick for the giant “vitamin pills are useless for most of us” sign that’s been under construction for a while. (It’s a metaphor, but I imagine it as something like the Hollywood sign, except nobody looks at it because they’re all busy shopping for vitamins in the valley below.)
Vitamin pills may be necessary if you have certain health conditions. For example, if you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid. If you’ve been eating nothing but ramen all semester, you might want to stock up on Emergen-C. But if you just have a vague sense that you’d like to be healthier, vitamins aren’t likely to help you, and they might hurt.
Lifehacker has a quick course on vitamins and who might need to take supplements. Do you need to take a supplement? If you have symptoms that make you suspect a vitamin deficiency, you should ask a doctor, because it might be something else that needs to be identified.