Multivitamins have always been the go-to supplement to fill in the nutritional gaps for the last few decades, and they do help in providing a strong health boost for those who lack in certain nutrients.
A multivitamin is a supplement that consists of a blend of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients to fill any nutritional gaps that may exist in the everyday diet.
We are all well aware of the basic concept of multivitamins, however, post COVID-19 pandemic, once again multivitamins are gaining the spotlight. It helps to boost the immunity power and also help fight against the deadly disease.
What are multivitamins?
Every other day, we strive to bring in balance, by eating right, regular exercises, adequate sleep, and whatnot! Although even after that, our body needs a boost to deal with stress, anxiety, and dietary deficiencies that come complementary as a part of our busy life.
This is where; the role of multivitamin supplements comes into picture. It contains various vitamins and minerals, required to fill in the nutrient gaps.
Mainly there are two types of vitamins – fat and water soluble. Vitamins are mainly categorized as fat soluble, which consists of vitamins A, D, E and K and water soluble which consist of vitamins B and C. This difference between the both is that, it determines how each of these vitamin acts within the body.
The human body requires 13 vitamins and 16 minerals for healthy growth, and so these multivitamins are a combination of several vitamins, minerals and other ingredients which include herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids.
It is quite evident that there are multiple health benefits of taking multivitamin tablets.
For instance, Vitamin D helps to aid in bone health, Vitamin D also help prevent colon cancer and many chronic conditions. Folic Acid helps in reducing the birth defects and has also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, and other cancers including breast cancer, B Vitamins family are proven to boost energy and aid in the neurological functions.
Magnesium helps in relaxing the body. Antioxidants help prevent certain cancers. While both Vitamin C and Zinc is proven to boost the immune function.
These are just a few benefits of taking a multivitamin. Let us take a look at various health benefits of taking multivitamins.
Multivitamin benefits for skin
Multivitamin benefits for skin are mainly associated with Vitamin E and C as they play a role of antioxidants. Vitamin E and Vitamin C function to protect against sun damage.
These vitamins absorb the harmful UV radiation from the sun when applied to the skin. It helps in keeping the skin healthy, shiny, and also helps in retaining the natural oil inside the skin; thereby preventing dryness.
P.S.- Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) also plays a prominent role when it comes to glowing skin and keeping it healthy,
Multivitamin Benefits for Heart health
Multivitamins consisting of vitamin C and E can help reduce the heart disease risk. However more research is ongoing if multivitamins can really help support heart health. 1
If you already have heart disease, vitamin E may reduce the risk of future heart attack. While vitamin C helps vitamin E to work better in the body. It also improves the way the arteries work.
Nevertheless, both these vitamins help protect the arteries from oxidized cholesterol and also prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They also help the arteries relax and help open up more. 2
Vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 ensure that calcium is absorbed properly and reaches the bone mass, while also preventing arterial calcification. It helps prevent plaque formation and keep your heart and bones healthy.
Multivitamin benefits for Eye health
Multivitamins have a direct impact in lowering cataract incidents in elderly men and women. Several studies have indicated that regular intake of multivitamin supplements reduce the different cataract problems in the eye. 3
Vitamins A, C, E, B3, helps support eye health. Research has also shown multivitamins that contain vitamins, lutein, and zeaxanthin can help in reducing the risk of chronic eye diseases.4
People who got the most of it had a much lower risk for developing new cataracts. Dark green leafy vegetables are the primary source of it, as well as other colourful fruits and vegetables like broccoli, corn, peas, etc, also helps.
Scientific evidence has shown vitamin C lowers the risk of developing cataracts and when combined with other essential nutrients, that can help slow the progression of age-associated macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.5
Try incorporating oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, and tomatoes into your diet to maintain good eye health.
Multivitamins Benefits for Bone health
As we age, not only our nutritional needs increase, but also it gets harder for one’s body to absorb these nutrients. Multivitamins help in bridging these gaps, by improving bone health and filling these deficiencies.
Multivitamins that consist of vitamin D and K2 are essential to building strong bones when you are young and also to keep them healthy as you age. In addition to building bones and keeping them strong, these vitamins allow the blood to clot, the muscles to contract, and the heart to beat.
Maintaining healthy bones is not only about increasing your calcium intake. For instance, did you ever know that apart from calcium, one should also take vitamins D and K2?
Vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 ensure that calcium is absorbed properly and that it reaches the bone mass, thereby preventing arterial calcification, and keeps bones healthy.
Additionally, K2 regulates normal blood clotting, while D3 helps in keeping the immune system healthy and supports muscle function. Vitamin K works on activating the proteins involved in bone formation and mineralization.
The best supplement is the one that meets your needs of convenience, cost, and USP verified mark, adequate amount, no/less side effects and availability.
Multivitamin Benefits for Cancer
Multivitamins are also associated with a reduced risk of some cancers.
Some studies suggest that multivitamins reduce the risk of cancer in men substantially, especially bladder and colon cancer. There’s direct evidence that multivitamins reduce men’s cancer risk by 8%.6
Long term use of multivitamins reduces the risk of colon cancer in women. An NIH study on a large group of women found that measured intake of folate multivitamins for 15 years or more reduces colon cancer risk in women. 7
Multivitamin Benefits for Brain
Moreover, Vitamin B6, B9 and B12 vitamins are often linked with the brain. B vitamins help in producing the energy that is required to develop new brain cells.
A 16-week study in elderly women increased their working memory capacity. Most of this was due to the increase in Vitamin B6, B12 and Vitamin E. 8
Although this doesn’t show any improvement in cognitive abilities like speaking and reading, their memory was found to be in better condition with the enhanced power of remembering.
Multivitamins reduce mental fatigue by enhancing the activity of neurotransmitters. Vitamins like Vitamin B1 thiamine, Vitamin B9 folate, Vitamin C are crucial for the proper functioning of our neurotransmitters.
Similarly, Vitamin B complexes and Vitamin C are essential for the many metabolic pathways of the body including the transport of oxygen. 9
Nevertheless, Vitamin B family has been helping to maintain the stress and anxiety levels and also helps in boosting the energy levels and thereby helps in improving the quality of sleep.
So, a regular dietary intake of multivitamins provides all the necessary vitamins and minerals to rejuvenate the body.
Which are the must have ingredients in Multivitamin
Irrespective of what brand you chose, following are the must have ingredients in your multivitamin.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the safest and most effective nutrient. The benefits of vitamin C include protection against the immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, eye disease, skin wrinkling, etc.
Higher blood levels of vitamin C may be the ideal nutrition marker for overall health,
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps in absorbing the calcium, which is very vital for bone health. Not getting enough of this vitamin can increase the chances of making you fall sick, increased chances of bone and back pain as well as hair loss.
While technically one can get the vitamin D by being in the sunlight however the busy schedule of working in an office from 10 to 7 lives, makes it difficult.
This vitamin is also hard to be found in food, and hence as it is recommended to buy a multivitamin that consists of this essential vitamin.
Zinc is lower in older people and anyone who is under a lot of stress, which basically includes everyone.
Zinc helps in supporting the immune system and supports our body to use carbohydrates, protein, and fat to produce energy. It also helps in wound healing. Usually the food that includes Zinc are brown rice, spinach, grass fed beef, etc.
The average person’s diet isn’t rich in foods that offer zinc in it, and moreover the body can’t store zinc, which makes it inevitable as an ingredient to be present in your daily supplements.
Magnesium is required for the growth and maintenance of bones.
Magnesium is not only required for the proper function of nerves, muscles, but also many other parts of the body. In the stomach, magnesium helps in neutralizing the stomach acid and helps move stools through the intestine easily.
On the basis of research conducted, Omega has been proved to help lower down the blood pressure, slow down the development of plaque in the arteries, reduce the probability of heart attack and stroke, and also lessen the probability of sudden cardiac death in people suffering from heart disease.
How to choose a multivitamin?
With the growing options to choose from the various multivitamin supplements available in the market, it has made it tricky for the people.
However there are still quite a few basic things that can help people navigate the right multivitamin supplement for them. Take a look at a few of them for you to easily differentiate.
1. USP verification – The USP verification is an independent, non-profit organization that helps determine whether the supplements are pure and do they contain the ingredients that are listed on their labels.
It is always suggested to check your multivitamin online to make sure that it is USP verified. Additionally Consumerlab also help evaluates that the supplements are pure, and NSF International, certifies the supplement content.
2. Appropriate values of ingredients
Apart from the fat soluble vitamin, choose a multivitamin with 100 percent of its ingredient’s daily value. It is recommended to check its label before opting for one.
However, Some nutrients, like iron, calcium, cannot be included in a multivitamin at 100 percent as it would make it too large to swallow.
Magnesium and potassium levels are kept low generally to avoid the drug nutrient interactions, as these nutrients can also be covered from our diet that consists of whole grains, nuts, oats, avocado, spinach etc.
3. The right balance of age and sex
Nutrient needs completely vary based on the gender and the sex.
For instance, premenopausal women may need more of the iron, while older adults need more of the minerals and vitamins like calcium, vitamin D, and B6.
A dietician or doctor can help you determine regarding which specific nutrients you will need based on your age and sex.
4. Essential micronutrients
Besides nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, a good multivitamin will also include, vitamins like, A, E, K, B6, B12, D2 or D3 and folate, and minerals like Calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
One can skip multivitamins that are made with any additional micronutrients for which there are no daily values, no synthetic fillers and caking agents, and are recommended like boron, nickel and tin, etc.
Nevertheless, Check the form of the multivitamin, along with its health benefits and source.
There are many forms of multivitamins like capsules, tablets, gummies, softgels, chewables, etc. Important parameters like absorption, dosage, quality, health benefits, side effects, etc. depend on its form, which shouldn’t be ignored.
Men multivitamins vs women multivitamin
Benefits of multivitamin for men
Multivitamin benefits men’s body with the essential nutrients required to keep going.
Men’s body need more of some of the nutrients and less of others, while multivitamin benefits for men are plenty, and daily multivitamin for men can help in bridging the gap. Although multivitamins are required for men’s overall health. For instance,
- Testosterone is an essential hormone for men as they have higher levels of it. It contributes to male sexual health, fertility, muscle growth, etc, aspects of health. Various multivitamin supplements like Vitamin D and Zinc help in boosting the testosterone levels.
- Vitamin D helps fight off bacteria and viruses, protect bones against osteoporosis, absorb calcium into your bones, and increase testosterone levels.
- While Zinc helps in producing the DNA, genetic material and also repair the gastrointestinal tract. One can consume food like red meat, dairy products, beans, nuts, seafood, or take the supplement that contains it.
Benefits of multivitamin for women
Prenatal multivitamins are mainly for pregnant women or those women who are trying to get pregnant. Your body uses these vitamins, minerals and all other nutrients in food to be strong and healthy.
During the phase of pregnancy, the baby gets all necessary nutrients from you.
- Nutrients like folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, Iodine are very essential during pregnancy. A daily multivitamin that contains folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and quite other essential vitamins help women exponentially.
- For instance- Folate helps women’s body make healthy red blood cells and is also found in certain foods like green leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli, etc. Folic acid is mainly used to prevent folate deficiency anemia, and moreover it help an unborn baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord develop avoid problems like spina bifida.
- Vitamin C mainly helps in absorption of iron in the body, and proper functioning of the immune system, and also in the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
- While Vitamin B12 helps boosts the sexual desire in women by improving the mood. For women, consuming vitamin B12 helps provide more energy and causes less stress and fatigue. This plays an important role on the overall sexual drive and libido.
When can multivitamins be harmful to your body?
People who take multivitamins often do so in order to improve or maintain their health; or to protect themselves against nutrient deficiencies.
Multivitamins are mostly safe as long as they keep providing the nutrient levels that fall within the DRI guidelines. Some people may experience gut-related side effects when they first begin taking a multivitamin, but these tend to resolve quickly in most of the cases.
While there are some ingredients in multivitamins that cause harm like the caking agents etc. Other side effects are usually rare. However, it is crucial to note that the government does not supervise multivitamins in the same way as it does for medications.
Megadoses of some of the nutrients may not always be harmful, but extremely high doses of some of the nutrients can seriously harm your health.
Multivitamins generally contain three categories of nutrients:
- Water-soluble vitamins. These can easily dissolve in water and don’t usually accumulate in the body and do not even cause severe side effects if you take them in excess (e.g., B vitamins, vitamin C).
- Fat-soluble vitamins. These dissolve in fat and get accumulated in the body, thereby reaching toxic levels and potentially causing harm to your body, if you take them in excess (e.g., vitamins A, D, E, and K).
- Minerals. These are mainly the inorganic elements that get accumulated in the body and may cause harmful effects if you consume them in excess (e.g., iron, iodine, zinc, copper, and selenium).
Multivitamins are good for those who are unable to meet their daily nutrient needs.
However, it is equally important to ensure that multivitamins benefit, but it cannot really replace a balanced diet, and taking some of the fat soluble vitamins in excess may have side effects.
It is recommended to opt for multivitamins based on your age and sex, consider reading the ingredients and labels thoroughly and check for USP verification.
The must have ingredients include vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
While a good multivitamin will also include vitamins like, A, E, K, B6, B12, D2 or D3 and folate, and minerals like Calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
It is recommended to opt for the ones that consist of nutrient levels that are close to their current DRIs and well tested by a third-party lab.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I take a multivitamin?
Food is a primary source for all vitamins and minerals. Multivitamin cannot replace a well-balanced diet.
The purpose of a multivitamin is to fill the nutritional gaps, and so based on the DRI, one must research well or consult a doctor on which multivitamin is best suited for the body.
2. How long should you take multivitamins supplements?
Multivitamins should be taken on a regular basis as suggested by the doctor. Make sure to read the label well and follow all the dosage instructions.
3. What does a multivitamin do for your body?
Multivitamins consist of various vitamins and minerals which are normally found in various food sources. It helps you to bridge the nutrient gaps so one can meet the required amount of nutrients.
4. Can multivitamins make you gain weight?
Multivitamins do not make you gain weight, as its main objective is to fill the nutrition gaps. If you are concerned about sudden weight gain, you should consult the doctor.
5. Can I take multivitamins at night?
Some vitamins are best taken after a meal, while some on an empty stomach. Establishing a routine of taking a vitamin at the same time every day will help form a healthy habit. Mostly Vitamin B, C and folic acid are taken after meals.
6. Can multivitamins be taken with milk?
Multivitamins with milk, or other dairy products, contain calcium. Calcium makes it harder for the body to absorb the ingredients of the multivitamin.
7. Will multivitamin help hormone imbalance?
It is suggested to discuss the hormonal imbalances first with a doctor. However, multivitamins play an effective role in helping to balance healthy hormone production in the body.
8. Will multivitamins help with Covid?
Many vitamins like Vitamin C and quite a few are antioxidants that help boost the immune system, and protect against virus or infections. Nevertheless, the research is on, whether multivitamins can help protect against Covid, and so meanwhile it is important to follow healthy hygiene and social distancing.
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- Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men – The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial
- Zhao, L. Q., Li, L. M., Zhu, H., & The Epidemiological Evidence-Based Eye Disease Study Research Group, E. Y. (2014). The effect of multivitamin/mineral supplements on age-related cataracts: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 6(3), 931–949.
- American Optometric Association – Diet and Nutrition
- American Optometric Association – Diet and Nutrition
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- Macpherson, H., Ellis, K. A., Sali, A., & Pipingas, A. (2012). Memory improvements in elderly women following 16 weeks treatment with a combined multivitamin, mineral and herbal supplement: A randomized controlled trial. Psychopharmacology, 220(2), 351–365. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-011-2481-3
- Tardy, A. L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C., & Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients, 12(1), 228.