It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Should I take a multivitamin or individual supplements if I am trying to get pregnant?

Thank you for your informative article about multivitamin use and breast cancer. I just started taking multivitamins a week ago because I am vegan, live in the Pacific Northwest, and am trying to conceive so I need B12, vitamin D, and folic acid. Would you say that I could interpret this new study to say that I should toss the multivitamins and just take individual supplements for those ingredients I listed above? I would really appreciate your input in this matter as I have PCOS and Endometriosis and therefore have an abundance of estrogen which would seem to place me in higher risk according to this study.

On a side note, are you familiar with the work of Dr. Neal Barnard and his studies on vegan diets and reducing or eliminating diabetes? I read his book and am curious to hear from a nutritionally informed physician (sadly, there are few to call upon) on his validity within the medical community.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

a baby reclining in its mother's lap while breastfeeding

In a case such as yours it would be good to consult with your Obstetrician about which are the best vitamins to take. You are correct that making sure to get enough folate and Vitamin B12 is both important for women of childbearing age but especially so for you, since you are a vegan. This is the sort of case that the new guidelines speak to when they say that

"Limited evidence suggests that supplements containing combinations of certain nutrients are beneficial in reversing chronic disease when used by special populations."

You would certainly be that special population, and spending a session or two with a dietitian would be especially beneficial to you.

I have read Dr. Bernard's work, and certainly vegan diets have been shown to reduce and eliminate diabetes. For most folks, however, this is not an option that they wish to adopt for their lifestyle. Fortunately, the Mediterranean style diet has been shown to also greatly reduce the risk of diabetes, as well as reverse and "cure" those with Type II adult onset diabetes. Similarly, low Glycemic Index (GI) diets have also been shown to be very effective. In truth, the issue is not as much which healthier option is the best, but that the diet that most Americans eat is so terrible for them.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet