Multivitamins are the most commonly used supplements in the world. Their popularity has increased rapidly in the past few decades. Some people believe that multivitamins can improve health, compensate for poor eating habits, and even reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals, sometimes alongside other ingredients. There’s no standard for what constitutes a multivitamin, their nutrient composition varies by brand and product.
However, you may wonder if these supposed benefits are true. They’re available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, chewable gummies, powders, and liquids.
What do multivitamins contain?
Thirteen vitamins and at least 16 minerals are essential to your health. Many of them aid enzyme reactions in your body or function as signaling molecules or structural elements.
Your body also needs these nutrients for reproduction, maintenance, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.
Multivitamins may offer many of these vitamins and minerals — but in varying forms and amounts. They may also contain other ingredients like herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Multivitamins and heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Many people believe that taking multivitamins can help prevent heart disease, but the evidence is mixed.
Multivitamins and cancer
The evidence regarding multivitamin use and cancer risk is also mixed. Multivitamins may improve memory and mood. What’s more, antioxidant vitamins and minerals may help slow the progression of diseases that cause blindness.
Dosage is an important factor to consider when taking multivitamins. Although high doses of some vitamins and minerals are fine, high amounts of others can be seriously harmful.
The appropriate dosage often depends on solubility, for which vitamins are categorized into two groups:
Water-soluble which makes the body expels excess amounts of these vitamins.
Fat-soluble – As your body has no easy way to get rid of these, excess amounts may accumulate over long periods of time.
Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. While vitamins E and K are relatively nontoxic, vitamins A and D can have toxic effects if overconsumed.
If you take multivitamins and eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods, you can easily exceed the recommended daily intake of many nutrients.
Some individuals, including older adults, vegetarians and vegans, and pregnant or breastfeeding women, may need higher amounts of certain vitamins or minerals.
Additionally, you shouldn’t take a multivitamin to fix a poor diet. Eating a balanced diet of fresh, whole foods is much more likely to ensure good health over the long term.