Multivitamins are easily the most popular supplement in the United States. While other supplements may hold a negative connotation, or be associated with “gym bros” and whey protein. Multivitamins are just another part of everyday life for many Americans, regardless of age, who are looking to support good health habits and better nutrition. From chewable children’s vitamins to once-daily formulas for adults, multivitamins come in many different shapes and sizes.

multivitamins on a table
Multivitamins come in many shapes and sizes

The popularity of daily vitamin and mineral supplements has grown significantly throughout the 80s & 90s, and their popularity continues to grow today. Most multivitamins offer many positive benefits, especially for those with dietary restrictions or have vitamin deficiencies. But, there is some false information out there about multivitamins and the alleged health benefits they can offer to those who take them every day.

We will examine the claims, studies, and evidence to set aside the facts from fiction, so you can find the right daily vitamin and mineral supplement for body and dietary needs.

What are Multivitamins? What do they do for the body?

Multivitamins, simply put, are supplements that contain multiple different vitamins and minerals – but some might contain other ingredients as well. There is no industry standard for multivitamin formulas. So, it is important to search for a brand that offers you the vitamins and minerals you need. Vegetarians and those with other special diets might want to look for a multivitamin high in iron, while someone who eats a high meat diet, may want a formula with more beta carotene, vitamin D, zinc, or other minerals they are naturally lacking in their diet.

There are multivitamin formulas with different amounts of vitamins and minerals that are specially formulated for men, women, and even age-specific formulas. Multivitamins come in many different shapes and sizes, so you are certain to find one that works for you. Capsules, pills, gummies, or chewable, there is a multivitamin for everyone.

Multivitamins serve a simple purpose, and that is to help give your body additional vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients, your food choices, and diet may be lacking. Do your research and speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice to find what nutrients you should focus on in a multivitamin. A high-quality multivitamin can leave your feeling a boost to your general health, more energy, and help strengthen the immune system.

What makes up Multivitamins?

There are thirteen vitamins and (roughly) sixteen minerals that are absolutely essential for your health. These nutrients serve different functions across the body, such as reproduction, maintenance, growth, and regulation of bodily processes and functions.

red and blue vitamins on a yellow background
Multivitamins are simply supplements with offering a variety of vitamins and minerals

Multivitamin formulas offer a convenient source for these vitamins and nutrients, but the quantities can vary greatly from product to product. Some may even contain other ingredients like herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids (like omega-3).

Dietary supplements and vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it is important to review the nutrition facts, and make sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer, so some may contain lower levels of some nutrients than are listed on the label. Ideally, products should third-party lab tested for potency and purity.

The source of the nutrients in multivitamins can also be derived from different sources. Some may come from real food sources, while others are synthetically created in laboratories.

Is it good to take a Multivitamin every day?

Most multivitamin formulas are recommended to be taken daily, but pay close attention to the directions and supplement facts. While some products are intended for once daily use, others may have larger serving sizes or may recommend taking one in the morning and one evening. Taking more than the recommended serving may increase the risk of negative side effects. If taken appropriately there is little to no risk of any negative side effects.

What are some benefits of taking a Multivitamin?

Multivitamins have been the focus of many studies and some additional benefits are as follows.

Brain Function

Some studies have suggested that multivitamins can improve memory in older adults (1, 2, 3). These vitamins may also help improve mood or reduce symptoms associated with depression (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

But, some studies suggest there is no real mood change (10).

Eye Health

As the years go by, so does our eye health. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world (11).

One study found that taking antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals can potentially slow down the progression of this disease. However, there is no evidence to suggest these vitamins can prevent macular degeneration outright (12, 13).

There is also evidence to suggest multivitamins can support healthy eyes and may reduce the risk of cataracts (14).

Are they safe?

Yes, multivitamins are safe, but as stated before vitamins are not regulated by the FDA so it is important to buy from a reputable brand, and check the levels of each vitamin, mineral, herb, etc… within the formula.

Multivitamins may be harmful in certain situations.

Dosage of each nutrient is an important factor when considering the use of a multivitamin. High dosages of some nutrients are perfectly safe and fine, but there is evidence to support that high amounts of others can put you at a higher risk of negative side effects.

The appropriate dosage often depends on the solubility of the vitamin – which falls into two categories.

  • Water-soluble – these are vitamins that your body can easily expel excess amounts of.
  • Fat-soluble – the body has no easy way to expel excess amounts of these, and as a result, large amounts can be accumulated over periods of time.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, but while vitamins E &K are considered nontoxic, A & D may have a risk of toxic effects if overconsumed. Vitamin D toxicity is very rare, and taking a multivitamin puts you at low risk of experiencing this. But, vitamin A toxicity is more common according to some studies (15, 16, 17).

Minerals in very high dosages also pose slight risks when taken excessively – for example, too much iron may be dangerous for people who don’t need it (18, 19).

Who Should Take a One?

Unless you are already getting all or most of your daily recommended vitamins, and minerals from nutrient-rich food sources, you can probably benefit from adding a multivitamin to a healthy diet and lifestyle. But, there are certain populations that should really consider the use of multivitamins to help support a healthy lifestyle. But, also seek medical advice from your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

  • The Elderly – There is evidence that older adults and elderly individuals have a difficult time absorbing vitamin B12, so getting enough vitamin B12 from food alone becomes more difficult over the years. Older adults also need more calcium and vitamin D. If you or someone you know is getting older, and seem more fragile than before, maybe recommend they take a multivitamin.
  • Vegans and Vegetarians – Vegan and vegetarian diets are usually a healthy choice, as it limits many unhealthy options from your menu, and encourages low calorie, high fiber healthy foods. But, by restricting the foods you can eat, it is easy to miss out on other menu options that also have value for your health. You don’t need to read a scientific study to know that vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods. Many vegans and vegetarians are lacking calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids (19, 20).

A high-quality vitamin formula can also benefit anyone who does not get enough nutrients from food alone, but especially for those who have undergone weight loss surgery, are on low-calorie diets, have a poor appetite, or anyone who is just looking to get additional nutrients, consistently over time. If you have found yourself reading this far, there is a good chance you are interested in trying a multivitamin.

You can find our top picks for products and brands, right here in our multivitamins buying guide. Remember, there is no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but these can help make up for the nutrients lacking in your diet. We can’t wait to see what you have to say about our research and picks.

To stay up-to-date on all things health & wellness, make sure to check out the other great articles on Smarter Choices and leave a comment below!

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