What You Need to Know About Multivitamin Supplements

With countless supplements on the market today, there are a few factors to consider when choosing the best multivitamins for men and women.
Taking Multivitamin

Multivitamins are the world's most popular dietary supplements. Image via Shutterstock

Our body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly, and the main source of these nutrients is a well-balanced diet.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to eat the right kind of food everyday which is why many people take multivitamin supplements on a daily basis.

The question is, do we all need one?

What are Multivitamins?

A multivitamin supplement is a dietary supplement that supplies the body with essential vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are normally found in natural sources like food.

A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet should provide all the daily requirements for vitamins and minerals, but most people are not able to derive all their nutrient needs from diet alone.

Multivitamin supplements are said to be the most popular in the world and they come in many forms, ranging from tablets and capsules to liquids, powders, and gummies (source [1, 2]).

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Who Should Take a Multivitamin Supplement?

In general, anyone who is unable to consume a wide variety of food may need a multivitamin supplement.

Nonetheless, certain individuals may benefit from it and they include:

Elderly: The body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 declines as one ages. They may also require more calcium and vitamin D for the prevention of osteoporosis. While there is no evidence that multivitamins help in more common health issues such as high blood pressure, they do help enhance memory and cognitive function in both men and women.

Vegans and vegetarians: Individuals who refrain from eating animal-derived foods are at high risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. They may also be deficient in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Multivitamins help shield these individuals against deficiency.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women: These women have different nutritional needs than the rest of the population. Studies have shown that taking multivitamins reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and this is mostly attributed to folic acid. However, they must consult their specialist first prior to taking supplements of any kind. Some vitamins and minerals can be harmful to the baby when taken in large doses. Excessive vitamin A, in particular, has been shown to cause birth defects.

Weight loss surgery patients: Reducing the size of the stomach reduces the amount of nutrients absorbed from food and this, in turn, leads to broad nutrient deficiencies. In these individuals, the effectiveness of multivitamin supplements are also reduced but it should still do a great job in maintaining a good nutritional status.

Multivitamin supplements may also be used to treat deficiencies caused by various illnesses and conditions.

Depression: Several studies have shown an association between nutrient deficiencies and poor mood. Regular supplementation has been shown to promote a more positive mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. The antidepressant effect is mostly associated with vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Celiac Disease: Celiac disease is an immune disease wherein the consumption of gluten causes the immune cells to attack and damage the small intestine. It is characterized by malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies, and weight loss. Individuals diagnosed with this are often deficient in B-vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

Crohn's Disease: Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the different areas of the gastrointestinal tract. It is characterized by abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, severe diarrhea, and weight loss. Individuals afflicted with this disease are often malnourished and deficient in vitamin B12, among others.

Diabetes : Type II diabetes is said to increase the risk of magnesium deficiency. In addition, metformin can also lower levels of vitamin B12.

Heart Disease: The leading cause of death worldwide, it is believed that taking multivitamin supplements can reduce the risk of heart disease, especially in women. However, the evidence is limited and mixed.

Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease, is one of the major causes of blindness worldwide and taking antioxidant vitamins has been shown to slow down its progression. There is also some evidence that multivitamins could possibly reduce the risk of cataracts.

Is it good to take a multivitamin everyday?

There are 13 vitamins in all, nine of which are water-soluble (vitamins B-complex and C) while the other four are fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). As for minerals, there are at least 16 that the body needs to function properly. The content varies according to manufacturer and the key ingredients to look for depends on your needs.

Do Multivitamin Supplements Work?

Although multivitamins can address nutritional deficiencies, there is no evidence that they help people live longer. However, they are said to be beneficial when taken by certain populations, like the ones discussed above.

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Multivitamins can give your body the nutrients you need, and supports a more sustainable future. Image via Shutterstock

Do multivitamins have side effects?

Multivitamin supplements, when taken as directed by the manufacturer or by your physician, should not cause any unwanted side effects.

Too much vitamins, especially vitamins A and E, can be quite harmful.

There are also certain minerals in these supplements that can manifest symptoms of overdose if taken too much. Common symptoms include stomach discomfort, headaches, heart palpitations, confusion, muscle weakness, joint pain, and frequent urination. There may also be nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Other more serious symptoms are blood in the urine and bleeding.

NOTE: To prevent all these, refrain from taking more than one multivitamin supplement unless recommended by your doctor.

Also, it is advised to get emergency medical help if signs of allergic reaction appear. These include hives, trouble breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat.

How to Choose the Best Multivitamin Supplement?

So far, there are no standards as to what a good multivitamin supplement should contain. Composition varies according to the brand and the nutrients may be derived from natural sources or created in laboratories. There may also be additional ingredients like amino acids, fatty acids, and even herbs. Also, since these supplements are not regulated by the FDA, some contain nutrient levels that are higher or lower than what is listed on the label.

Pick a multivitamin supplement that contains nutrients that are close to your daily requirements in order to avoid exceeding recommended doses.

If you can, consult your health specialist prior to taking multivitamin supplements, or any nutritional supplement for that matter.

The Bottom Line

Multivitamin supplements are intended to address nutritional gaps and ensure that you meet your daily nutrient requirement. No matter how effective they might be, it is important to note that these are not the key to optimal health. They should not replace a healthy diet.

If you decide to use one, always consider not only the efficacy but also the price and manufacturer reputation. A multivitamin supplement is something that you'll take long-term, so you don't want to get one that will cost too much. As for the manufacturer, find one that has been around for a long time and has a reputation for good manufacturing.

Lastly, as we always reiterate, consult your trusted physician for some valuable suggestions and recommendations.

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.

*Result may vary. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a serious medical condition, or have a history of heart conditions we suggest consulting with a physician before using any supplement. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and should not be relied upon as a medical advice. Always consult your doctor before using any supplements.

Disclosure of Material connection: Some of the links in the post above are "associate sales links." This means if you can click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive a commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services which we use personally and/or believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials."

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