“We're living in the age of personalized nutrition,” says Deanna Minich, Ph.D., Seattle-based author of The Rainbow Diet and member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board. “We're done with general dietary guidelines that are for every body.” That includes one-size-fits-all multivitamins, which are being painted as outdated by vitamin companies such as Care/of and Multiply Labs.
The idea behind these personalized pill packs is simple: our supplementation needs are as unique as our goals, lifestyle, and genetics. “We have so many aspects about our physiology, psychology, life choices, and environment that are all so different,” says Minich. Theoretically, a personalized approach to vitamin supplementation can help fill in nutritional deficiencies and optimize everything from energy levels to heart health to mental clarity. “Rather than taking multivitamins that may lack nutrients you need while including vitamins you’re already getting plenty of, you can tailor your intake.”
Athletes, in particular, may benefit from this approach. “Just because people are into fitness doesn't mean they don't have ailments or additional [nutritional] needs,” says Minich. “In fact, sometimes they have even more ramped up needs.” Take exercise-induced inflammation, for instance. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could help mitigate inflammatory effects.
Personalized pills may also help prevent the risks of over-supplementing. “If we have high levels of certain nutrients, we could provoke toxicity [by supplementing],” Minich explains. For example, many multivitamins contain vitamin D, but if you’re already meeting or near the recommended daily allowance thanks to your diet and lifestyle, over-supplementing can cause bone and kidney problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To get a personalized vitamin from Care/of or Multiply Labs, you first have to answer a set of questions—Do you have trouble focusing? Do you have dry skin? How many times a week do you eat fish? How many servings of veggies and dairy do you get each day?This may be where the real value lies, says Zach Moore, CSCS, an Indianapolis-based coach at Precision Nutrition. Your answers are a great starting point for a conversation with a healthcare professional. “Take the recommendations from Care/of or Multiply Labs to your registered dietitian or doctor and ask them their thoughts as to whether they think it would fit in with what you're doing and if there's any reason that you should not take them,” Moore says.
It’s important to pay attention to quality since supplements can contain heavy metals, dyes, pesticides, and added sugars. “Supplements aren’t regulated,” explains Moore, who recommends looking for the certification of an independent third-party lab (which both Care/of and Multiply Labs use), such as the NSF or USP, that work to verify the safety of supplements.
And of course, personalized vitamins aren’t meant to be a quick fix for bad health habits. It’s still important to maintain a well-balanced diet that prioritizes fresh vegetables and lean proteins, says Moore.
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