Using Vitamins The Right Way

Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay. However there are ways, she says, to use multivitamins and get the most out of them
CBS/The Early Show
More than half of all Americans use vitamins or mineral supplements, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Multivitamins should not be taken to replace a good diet, warns Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay. However there are ways, she says, to use multivitamins and get the most out of them.

Studies show that Americans spend more than a $1.5 billion on vitamin supplements — making them the third most popular over-the-counter purchase at drug stores.

Many people choose to take their vitamins in the form of a multivitamin to ensure they are getting everything they need, says Senay. While doctors say that's a good idea, they warn against relying too much on multivitamins, which can never replace a healthy diet.

Senay says many people wrongly assume they can eat what they want and then take a multivitamin, and by doing so they'll be getting their recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are only meant to fill in the gaps.

Here are some tips when using multivitamins:

Choose a Brand You Know: The supplement industry isn't tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration so there can be a huge quality disparity among products. When buying, choose a brand that you've heard of. A well-known product is more likely to contain the amount of nutrients that's promised on the label. This is not to say that there aren't good, lesser- known brands available. If you are in doubt, ask your pharmacist.

Match Vitamins to Lifestyle: Multivitamins are now formulated for many different groups such as seniors, pregnant women and active people. So when buying, be sure you choose a vitamin that matches your lifestyle. A pregnant woman, for instance, will need more folic acid to prevent birth defects and women in general typically need more calcium than men so they can prevent osteoporosis.

Avoid Vitamins With Too Many Ingredients: You may see multivitamins now that promise to contain every vitamin or herbal supplement under the sun. You are going to want to avoid these products because they probably don't contain enough of the individual nutrients to make any real difference. Remember, a tablet or capsule can only contain so much.

Look for U.S.P. Approval Seal: The U.S.P. approval seal is from the U.S. Pharmacopeia group. It ensures that the vitamin was tested by a government agency and that it will dissolve properly. You will not going get positive benefits of a vitamin if it doesn't dissolve promptly and properly.

Take Vitamins With Food: Multivitamins are best absorbed by the body when taken with food. This also helps avoid the nausea many people feel when they take a multivitamin on an empty stomach. You are also more likely to remember to take your multivitamin if you do so every day at mealtime.