At some point in your life, you have probably heard you should take a multivitamin. Whether the advice came from your doctor, a spouse, or a well-intentioned friend the question always remains – do multivitamins work?
If you’ve ever wondered whether you should be taking a multivitamin, or if the multivitamin you’re taking is worth it, then keep reading!
What Do Multivitamins Do?
Multivitamins are dietary supplements that contain a dose of various vitamins and minerals our bodies depend on. Most options contain some amount of these common nutrients, including vitamin A, C, D, E, and B, zinc, magnesium, and calcium among others.
Typically multivitamins are targeted towards one population group, in particular, i.e., men, women, or children. This is because men, women, and children have varying nutritional needs. For instance, women are more likely to experience an iron deficiency than men, so women’s multivitamins typically contain more iron. Multivitamins are meant to meet those needs to an extent.
However, most of our nutritional needs should be met through whole foods which is where many people point out is a multivitamin necessary. In other words, what is the real benefit of a multivitamin if we are already getting our nutritional needs from our daily diet?
What Are the Benefits of Multivitamins?
The main benefit of taking a multivitamin is to ensure adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. Specifically, multivitamins can provide a supplement to your daily diet if you are not otherwise meeting your nutritional needs.
As a result, multivitamins can help:
- Eliminate Nutritional Deficiencies
- Reduce the risk of diseases, such as cancer and heart disease
- Target specific health concerns
- Improve vision
- Support mood
Eliminating Nutritional Deficiencies
Adequate nutrition is paramount to maintaining good health. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t get adequate nutrition from food alone. This may be because of a poor diet or a lack of nutritional density in the foods they consume. It may also be because of restricted diets, such as vegetarian or vegan diets, or because of changing nutritional needs. For instance, as we age, we are able to absorb less of some essential vitamins like vitamin B12.
Filling these gaps in nutrition is one major benefit of taking a multivitamin since they are associated with a lower risk of nutrient deficiencies.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommends nutritional needs be met primarily from nutrient-dense foods and beverages. When it is not possible to meet nutritional needs solely through food, however, particularly during pregnancy when nutritional needs are greater, supplements such as multivitamins are useful.
Reducing the Risk of Disease
Likely in part to filling nutritional gaps, some studies have shown positive results between taking a multivitamin and reducing the risk of certain diseases. One study found a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in women taking a multivitamin daily. Another found long-term daily multivitamin use helped reduce the risk of cancer among men.
Targeting Specific Health Concerns
Many people also take multivitamins or individual supplements, such as collagen, for the specific health benefits they promote. In the case of collagen, this may mean more youthful-looking skin or more nimble joints. Other multivitamins may promote healthy digestion, prenatal care, longer, thicker hair, or energy.
Do multivitamins give you energy?
In filling nutritional deficiencies, it is possible that taking a multivitamin can help you feel more energy. However, this isn’t a guarantee. Everyone’s nutritional needs will depend on his or her own unique diet. If, for instance, you are lacking vitamin B12 or B6, you may experience fatigue or low energy. In this case, taking a vitamin B12 or B6 supplement, or a multivitamin that contains these micronutrients may help.
If you’re lacking energy throughout the day, prioritize getting quality sleep and eating naturally energy-boosting foods.
What Are the Side Effects of Multivitamins?
While multivitamins are generally safe to take, some people may experience side effects. Side effects of multivitamins typically set in when someone is getting too much of a particular nutrient. For instance, taking too much vitamin A can result in birth defects and headaches.
While most multivitamins contain 100% or less than the recommended daily amount, an excess of certain nutrients can occur when taking them in tandem with other supplements and fortified foods.
Multivitamins can also interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you’re taking any medications, it’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first before taking a multivitamin.
Can multivitamins make you sick?
Nausea and vomiting or indigestion are other common side effects of multivitamins. Sometimes, this is an initial reaction that your body adjusts to or because you took the vitamin on an empty stomach. Other times, it occurs when nutrients, such as vitamin D or E, are taken in excess. If you are experiencing side effects or a multivitamin is making you sick, you should speak with your physician to assess the appropriate course of action.
How Long Does it Take for Vitamins to Work?
Many of the benefits of multivitamins come with consistent use over time. Just as eating a healthy diet on a daily basis is important for long-term health, taking vitamins on a daily basis is important for adequate levels of nutrients.
That being said, if you’re wondering how long it will be before you see results, it will likely depend on how deficient you are in particular vitamins and what results you are looking for. Most multivitamins won’t solve nutritional deficiencies overnight, but you may experience benefits after a few days or weeks.
FAQs About Multivitamins
“Do multivitamins work?” isn’t the only question people wonder. Once you decide whether to take a multivitamin or not, there are various types, doses, and times to take it. Let’s explore which ones work best and when.
Are gummy vitamins effective?
Gummy vitamins are what we all grew up on, right? Fred & Wilma Flinstone were regulars at the breakfast table. And for kids who won’t take anything that doesn’t come in fun shapes or colors, gummy vitamins can be the best option. However, for most adults, they aren’t.
Gummy vitamins are less effective than pill or tablet vitamins because they contain fewer vitamins and minerals. This is because other ingredients like gelatin and sugar take up space in the end product and because they are less shelf-stable, so they lose potency over time. Plus, they often contain added sugar and other ingredients that we should try to avoid when possible. However, for children that otherwise may not be willing to take them, gummy vitamins can provide an effective way to ensure consistent adherence.
Can you overdose on vitamins?
Yes, you can overdose on vitamins, however, it is unlikely by just taking a multivitamin. When taking a multivitamin, always follow the dosage instructions. If you are taking other dietary supplements, it’s possible to exceed the recommended daily amount of certain nutrients. Talk to your doctor about whether you are taking too many vitamins and if you might benefit from a few specific supplements rather than a multivitamin.
When is the best time to take vitamins?
The best time to take vitamins is when you can easily remember to take them consistently. If you can’t remember to take them consistently, you won’t reap any of the benefits. Try to consume them with a meal, whether in the morning or at night. This is because multivitamins contain both water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins as well as minerals. While your body can absorb water-soluble vitamins easily, it needs fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Should I take a multivitamin?
The research surrounding multivitamins is mixed. While some studies have shown that regular use can decrease the risk of cancer in men or improve cognitive function, other studies have shown few benefits. However, there is very little downside to taking a multivitamin and it could provide some help in meeting your daily nutritional needs. This is especially true for older adults, pregnant women, picky kids, vegetarians, or people on other strict diets that may lack the nutrition they need.
Just be sure to talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplement including a multivitamin. They can not only recommend vitamins for your specific nutritional needs but also keep you from taking those that could result in harmful side effects.
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