I tend to not believe things either way and like to be more precise. I recently wanted to try multivitamins for various reasons such as lockdown limiting my dietary options slightly.
I generally don't believe most of this nonsense with people trying to shove things down people's throats like fruits and vegetables. I'm fairly into evolution and aware of things like we evolved with a semi-chaotic diet.
To a certain degree with health and diet it's more a thing of you don't have to make a huge effort to have a reasonable diet. Instead you just don't mess it up eating a tub of ice cream a day, etc. Though modern society makes stuff like that surprisingly easy to do.
When I search for do multivitamins really work I expect an intelligent response but instead I quickly see loads of responses saying no they won't make you immortal or effect what you die of. Nothing will stop people eventually dying, it's a study largely doomed to fail. It's not entirely useless but it appears to be a primary focus that's not very helpful.
As I see it the primary purpose of making sure you have no deficiency is your life leading up to that point. To be able to stay as healthy and active as possible. It's about your day to day life experience with health. They can of course backfire.
The common approach is to take multivitamins daily. You use a shotgun approach to make sure there's no deficiency. Though this is actually difficult to do in combination with a diet. What deficiencies might you really have? You might cause damage making your metabolism too fast or making vitamins too highly bioavailable preventing your body from exercising to regulate, store and extract nutrients. You might weaken yourself.
That can be hard to test for. Many people will do it as a preventative. That is, blindly. In my view once a week might be a better approach than daily on top of a normal diet as deficiencies are likely to be small and this also prevents some of the above problems.
The thing is in my book it may sometimes be better to let deficiencies happen. This is a necessary technique in engineering to reveal faults then perfectly address for them knowing what you're dealing with first.
If you have some real health problem that might be vitamin deficiency that's really palpable then you can take a multivitamin and see if it makes it better. Most people don't have access to full medical screening especially regularly. Particularly in countries like mine where we don't have private healthcare.
The body is also highly variable and sometimes the only way to know there's a deficiency is to have symptoms and then take the medicine, see if it clears up and hope it's no coincidence or deficiency. This is how in my country they test for infection. They give you anti-biotics and see if the symptoms go away.
You can often make an educated guess based on symptoms as well as having some idea of what's in what your eating or other lifestyle attributes.
The problem is with this approach alone is that what is the deficiency and what is the extent of deficiency? There's no perfect approach but I propose a product for Alex Jones. If no one has thought of it before and it's an original idea I give him the rights to patent it and if it makes tremendous profit he has to buy me a small mansion.
Mucking around aside I would not be surprised if this doesn't exist already. What's it called? Example of the product:
You have a packet of multivitamins. The top row, R0 contains normal multivitamins with everything in. They're all the same forming a single column. You take one of these, if it has a decisive effect then you know it probably works. You wait until the symptoms kick in again.
Now you go to the next row. R1. This one is split into two with two columns, C0 and C1. These are created by shuffling the ingredients of R0 & C0 then the top half goes into R1 & C0 with the second half going into R0 & C1.
If C0 works then you move down to the next row. Otherwise the next column and try C1. You can use this to work out what your deficiencies are. You could combine it with an app (either paper based or phone based) for people who find that too complicated.
It's like this, you have these vitamins and minerals [a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h] then this tree of pills:
- R0... [C0] = [a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h]
- R1... [C0, C1] = [[a, b, c, d], [e, f, g, h]]
- R2... [C0, C1, C3, C3] = [[a, b], [c, d], [e, f], [g, h]]
- R3... [C0, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7] = [[a], [b], [c], [d], [e], [f], [g], [h]]
This isn't perfect because deficiency can vary (combinations can also sometimes not play out how you might think) and it can take time but I think it's a cool idea. It has lots of complexities like double deficiencies though. Sometimes items might be co-dependent.
This example isn't great because it's a small set. It can be optimised with heuristics. Generally because vitamin supplements are between a dozen to three dozen it's tricky for an optimised algorithm to always necessarily make a big difference.
I don't think you can necessarily roll this out and get optimal results immediately but I think once you start playing with it and getting data back you can end up with an optimal strategy for those who really have no other way than to just try stuff to see what works.