Health insurance in a little pill. (American Running Association).

If you count yourself among the number of healthy adults who takes a daily multivitamin “just in case,” you are doing yourself a big favor according to Harvard researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association. On the other hand, if you think that your diet is so good that it stands on its own, you might think again. In a major review and analysis of three and a half decades of research on vitamins and chronic disease, the authors recommend that everyone, regardless of health status, diet or age, should take a daily multivitamin.

While actual vitamin deficiencies such as ben-beri and scurvy are rare in developed countries, many chronic diseases are associated with inadequate intake of several vitamins. Inadequate folate is associated with neural tube defects (a preventable birth defect), cancer, and coronary artery disease. Vitamin E and lycopene may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and Vitamin D and calcium reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Low levels of vitamins E, C, and A may increase the risk of several chronic diseases.

As is true in almost all things, too much of a good thing can create different problems. Exceeding the Tolerable Upper Levels (ULs) of some vitamins, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, can cause serious problems. In a recent survey of 1,500 Canadian adults, researchers found excessively high intakes of vitamin A (associated with liver damage and birth defects), niacin (associated with heart palpitations) and B6 (high levels can cause irreversible nerve damage).

The best solution is to choose a low cost, generic daily multivitamin that provides 100%, but not more, of each vitamin. Continue to strive to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible since they provide a huge array of health-Promoting phytochemicals. These two strategies, plus the all-important physical exercise, provide you with extremely effective, low cost health insurance.