Q&A: Should I Take a Prenatal Vitamin Even If I’m Not Pregnant?

Question: I’ve heard that prenatal vitamins can help improve hair quality, balance hormones, prevent acne and make fingernails stronger. Should I consider taking them even though I’m not pregnant?

Prenatal vitaminsImage credit: Prenatal vitamins via Shutterstock

Folic Acid During Pregnancy Reduces Risk of Language Delay

While prevention of neural tube defect — birth defects of the brain and spinal cord — is perhaps the most widely known reason for taking folic acid before and during pregnancy, recent research brings additional benefits of prenatal folic acid supplementation to light. A study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that use of folic acid supplements in early pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of severe language delay in children at 3 years of age [1].

Folic acid

New Supplement Results Easy to Sensationalize, Not Highly Meaningful

New research published in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine has caused quite a stir amongst vitamin- and mineral-popping Americans [1]. Researchers report that over the course of a decades-long study, older women who regularly took vitamin and mineral supplements were more likely to die than those who did not.

This news may surprise those who look to vitamin and mineral supplements as a mechanism for maintaining — and even improving — health. However, while it would be easy to sensationalize the research findings, the reality is that there are many limitations that prevent drawing meaningful conclusions — ones that could be used to inform behavior — from the study.


March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The goal of the annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is to make people aware of colorectal cancer and to encourage people to learn more about how to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) through regular screening and a healthy lifestyle. The results of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) administered to 32,374 adults 18 years of age or older in 2000 showed that colorectal cancer screening is underused [1]. Just over 60% of adults had ever had colorectal cancer testing. Only 44% of men and 37% of women greater than 75 years of age were current for testing. Colorectal cancer screening is very important. If colorectal cancer is allowed to metastasize (meaning to spread to other parts of the body), the 5-year survival rate is less than 10%. However, if colorectal cancer is found early, the 5-year survival rate is greater than 90% [2].

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is a complex of eight water soluble vitamins active in cell metabolism. They include Thiamine (vitamin B1), Riboflavin (vitamin B2, also called vitamin G), Niacin (vitamin B3, also called vitamin P), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine (vitamin B6), Biotin (vitamin B7, also called vitamin H), Folic acid (vitamin B9, also called vitamin M) and Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12).

Note: This review is not meant to be a comprehensive or definitive glossary, but rather to identify each vitamin’s function and highlight recent research findings of each of the B vitamins.