Should You Really Take a Multivitamin Daily? The Myth vs. the Science

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    Whether you should take a multivitamin depends on your current health needs, diet, and lifestyle.

    First off, what is a multivitamin?

    Did you know that over half of the US population of adults takes at least one supplement daily? And about one third takes a comprehensive multivitamin. Interestingly, a higher percentage of women reportedly use dietary supplements compared to men. People take multivitamins to increase nutrient intake for a number of reasons, such as maintaining or boosting current health, or taking a proactive, preventative approach to aging.

    Multivitamins are supplements containing various combinations of fat and water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Some may also include botanical or specialty ingredients. Some multivitamin formulations contain all of the types of essential vitamins, while others may contain a select few. Depending on preference or health needs, multivitamins can come in numerous forms, such as capsules, tablets, gummies, chewables, and liquids.

    Do multivitamins really improve your health? (It depends)

    Are multivitamins really worth it? The answer, as with many things in life, is: it depends.

    Taking a multivitamin can help to ensure you meet recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals if you fall short of these recommendations from diet alone. Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin can help bridge nutrient gaps as well as possibly overcome nutrient deficiencies, assuming the adequate amounts of the nutrients are present in the multivitamin.

    Certain nutrients are considered nutrients of concern for the general US population. These include calcium and vitamin D, amongst others. For example, studies show that one billion people globally have vitamin D deficiency, while close to 50% have what is considered an insufficiency.

    Taking multivitamins that contain these essential nutrients may be an effective way to correct for a nutritionally deficient lifestyle and diet. However, multivitamins are not a magic pill or cure-all. You still need to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and take care of yourself, generally speaking, to see improvements to your health

    For those who are young, in good health, and eat a varied, balanced diet, a multivitamin may be less important. People that meet this description might consider supplementing to their specific needs.

    Who should take a multivitamin?

    Multivitamins can be useful for anyone who may not be getting enough nutrients from diet alone, and therefore some may benefit more than others. Picky eaters may benefit, as well as those with various dietary restrictions.

    Those who are pregnant or trying to conceive are recommended to take prenatal multivitamins, which have a slightly different formulation specific to the needs of mother and baby.

    Older adults or those with certain medical conditions may benefit from taking a multivitamin to bridge nutrient gaps and keep them feeling their best.

    Be sure to always talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure a multivitamin is right for you, especially if taking other medications to make sure there are no potential negative interactions.

    Who does not need to take a multivitamin?

    For those already eating a variety of nutritious foods and meeting their daily nutrient needs, taking a multivitamin may be unnecessary.

    Some multivitamin formulations may not be suitable for some people. For example, iron is actually toxic when taken in excess, so do not take a multi that contains iron unless your levels have been tested and your doctor recommends that you supplement.

    Always look at the ingredients and dosage to determine whether or not a multivitamin is a good fit. You can seek the help of a qualified healthcare professional knowledgeable on the use of supplements for your particular health needs.

    Always talk to your doctor if you have pre-existing conditions or are taking certain medications.

    Multis for men vs. multis for women

    Multivitamins can help both men and women, albeit with differences in amounts. The Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDA, are guidelines set forth by government health agencies to inform the public about the amounts of nutrients required for men, women, and children.

    If you are deciding on taking a multivitamin, you should consider choosing one that is designed for your age, sex, and life stage.

    Men and women have different nutrient requirements to meet daily, as a result of differences in size as well as broad hormonal differences . For example, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults for vitamin C is 90mg for men and 75mg for women, while this number increases to 85mg during pregnancy and 120 mg during lactation.

    Multivitamins for women of child-bearing age often contain iron, since these women can lose more iron through menstruation and also require more during pregnancy. Then, as women age and stop menstruating, the need for iron decreases, which is why many multivitamins formulated for older women do not contain iron. Calcium needs, on the other hand, the RDA increases for women over the age of 51 by 200mg daily.

    Multivitamins for men often include levels of vitamins and minerals that fulfill the RDA levels needed for them. For example, adult men require a bit more zinc than women to support adequate testosterone production and a healthy prostate. For men over 50, multivitamins may contain higher amounts of certain nutrients like vitamin D, which is required at higher levels in older men.

    Care/of Vitamin Packs allow you to customize an easy-to-take daily pack of vitamins, minerals, and additional boosters to fit your unique nutrition needs.

    What happens to your body when you start taking a multivitamin daily?

    Taking a daily multivitamin can be an easy habit to check off your daily list of self-care. What can you expect from adding in this habit? You may be able to boost your nutrient status by meeting your RDA for important nutrients that are essential for your health.

    While there is not currently a wealth of studies specifically aimed at proving the benefits of taking multivitamins, there is general consensus on how certain nutrients often included in multivitamins may play a role in certain areas of health.

    For example, nutrients like biotin, B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E are all important for the health of hair, skin and nails. Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc and selenium, are all important for immune function. Certain B vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B12, are essential for brain function and energy support.

    So depending on the outcomes you are looking to support, a multivitamin may be able to help.

    Multivitamins containing fat-soluble vitamins should be taken with a meal or snack that contains some healthy fat to help with absorption of the nutrients.

    What to look for when choosing a multivitamin?

    Not all multivitamins are created equal. Always assess the quality of ingredients to make sure you’re choosing the right multivitamin.

    Look for one that includes vitamins in their active form for easier incorporation in the body. For example, choose methylated folate instead of folic acid and methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin.

    Choose a multi made with non-GMO ingredients and without unnecessary fillers. Be sure that the supplement you are buying claims they have been third-party tested. This guarantees that what is listed on the label is actually included in the supplement.

    Also make sure the multivitamin contains appropriate daily value percentages for your needs. More of all nutrients is not always better, unless recommended by your qualified healthcare professional.

    Care/of’s Multivitamin is made with high quality, non-GMO ingredients and activated forms of certain B vitamins. All Care/of products undergo third-party testing.

    Scams and gimmicks to be aware of

    Watch out for any product that claims to be a magical wonder supplement, or a catch-all cure for various conditions.

    Supplements are meant to do exactly as they are titled: to supplement. This means they can supplement, enhance and boost your health, but they do not replace a healthy lifestyle, diet, adequate sleep, stress management, and hydration.

    Look at ingredients on the label. Ideally the product should be third party-tested to ensure that you are actually getting the ingredients and nutrients it claims to include.

    To multi or not to multi: key takeaways

    So what do you think is best for you? In the end, the choice of whether or not to take a daily multivitamin is a personal one which you can make with the help of your doctor or a registered dietitian. The benefits of taking a multivitamin depend on your health needs, age, sex, and life stage. Always keep in mind that taking a multivitamin should not replace a well-balanced diet. However, those with certain health needs that may make getting adequate nutrient intake difficult may find a multivitamin beneficial. And others may like the assurance of covering their nutrient bases, even if they generally eat a well-balanced diet. If you do decide to take a multivitamin, be sure to buy one that is high quality to best support your health.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Victoria Peck-Gray, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Victoria is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist who helps people with resistant weight loss and PCOS transform their metabolic health and lose weight through a functional nutrition and lifestyle approach that addresses root causes. She is owner of her private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition and also leads her group metabolic coaching program for women called The 4 Method.