Are Multivitamins Worth Taking?
Multivitamins are a combination of several different vitamins, minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. Companies combine small amounts of every ingredient to cover diverse health requirements.
But are they efficacious? Most likely not, as the amounts of individual components are below the therapeutic dosage.
There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact reproduction, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.
Lots of people say that if you follow a “balanced diet,” you’ll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but it’s just not true. Many people are eating way too much processed food that is devoid of nutrition. There’s a lot of research that shows many people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. Period.
How do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If there are at least three different vitamins and minerals listed, it’s a multivitamin.
Do multivitamins work?
Multivitamins have been studied extensively.
The quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a “multivitamin.” Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.
So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?
Here’s a quick summary of the science:
- Improvement in memory and cognition in people who regularly take multivitamins
- Slight improvement in cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
- Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense
- There may be an increase, a decrease, or no effect at all on risk of heart attacks and heart disease
- There’s a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men
- There doesn’t seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins
All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.
Are multivitamins safe?
Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.
Now, I’m not talking about high-dose supplements. High doses of many nutrients can be harmful. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe.
Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.
However, there are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what’s on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines).
This is why choosing supplements that are licensed, if applicable (like in Canada), and from reputable companies is so important.
Multivitamins are not a way to optimal health. There is limited evidence that they improve health for most people. But there are some benefits.
Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they’re also safe (as long as you have a quality product). Of course, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed food prevents many diseases.
So try out my superfood salad – It’s like a multivitamin with benefits.
Nutrient Dense Superfood Salad (Serves 2)
- 2 handfuls grape tomatoes
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 2 handfuls of greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
- 2 broiled salmon fillets (optional)
- ½ cucumber, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 handfuls fresh berries
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 dash salt
- 2 dashes black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Take two large bowls and put one handful of greens each.
- Split all the rest of the fruits and vegetables, placing half in each bowl.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.
- Top with salmon and hemp seeds.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use grilled shrimp instead of the salmon.
Dr. Anna ND
- Do Multivitamins Actually Work? The Surprising Truth. https://authoritynutrition.com/do-multivitamins-work/
- Yes, we do have nutrient deficiencies. Here’s the proof and what you can do about it.
- Huang HY, Caballero B, Chang S, Alberg AJ, Semba RD, Schneyer CR, Wilson RF, Cheng TY, Vassy J, Prokopowicz G, Barnes GJ 2nd, Bass EB. The efficacy and safety of multivitamin and mineral supplement use to prevent cancer and chronic disease in adults: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference. Ann Intern Med. 2006 Sep 5;145(5):372-85. Epub 2006 Jul 31. Review.