I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine: I don’t take a multivitamin. I know, I know, I’m a registered dietitian, how could I not take a multivitamin? Like some people go on and off the diet bandwagon, I go on and off the multivitamin bandwagon. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s just a habit that never stuck because I don’t remember everyday—and I get most of the nutrients I need from the food I eat anyway.
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But when this new research came across my desk showing that taking a multivitamin may help you lose weight, I jumped back on the bandwagon. After all, I’m always looking for that extra edge to stay slim.
Here’s what the research said, reported on by Emily Sohn for the July/August issue of EatingWell magazine: In a new study of more than 85 obese women in China, those who took a multivitamin (with 29 vitamins and minerals, much like a “one-a-day” you find on store shelves), while continuing to eat their normal diets, lost an average of about three and a half pounds over six months. Those who took a placebo lost nothing.
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The findings, reported in February 2010 in the International Journal of Obesity, add to a growing field of research that links vitamins and minerals to weight loss. A study published in 2008 in the British Journal of Nutrition, for example, found that dieting obese men and women who took a multivitamin and mineral supplement lost the same amount of weight as dieters who took a placebo during a 15-week calorie-restricted eating plan. But the female supplement-takers reported feeling less hungry, said lead author Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D., an obesity researcher at Laval University in Quebec City. And being less hungry might make it easier to keep the weight off, says Tremblay.
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Scientists don’t yet know exactly which vitamins and minerals have the biggest influence over appetite and weight control. But one plausible theory as to why multivitamins might help promote weight loss, suggests Tremblay, is that when your body is low on vitamins and minerals, your appetite fires up—prompting you to eat more to replenish the nutrients you’re missing. By staying topped off with nutrients, on the other hand, it may be possible to keep a runaway appetite under control.
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It’s still best to get your nutrients from food, but when dieters cut back on calories they are more likely to miss the mark on some nutritional requirements. So although a supplement on its own won’t melt the pounds away, it can help ensure that vitamin and mineral deficiencies aren’t contributing to extra weight.
OK, so there’s still no magic pill for weight loss, but if taking a multivitamin might be the secret to staying slim, consider me back on the bandwagon…permanently. And so far so good: I’ve barely missed a day since.