Choosing the Right Multivitamin for Your NeedsA multivitamin is a product containing at least three different vitamins. Despite the name, most multivitamins also contain minerals like calcium, magnesium, or iron, and, in some cases, other natural ingredients, like omega-3s.
Should I take a specific vitamin supplement or a multivitamin?
If your diet is lacking in a specific nutrient, but otherwise well-balanced, it’s best to take only the supplement you actually need, e.g., calcium, vitamin B12, or vitamin D.
A multivitamin is a good choice to complement a diet that is lacking in variety or when the person is at risk of several deficiencies, due to an illness, for example.
Multivitamins tailored to different needs
The body’s requirements in vitamins, minerals, and certain other nutrients vary depending on age, gender, level of physical activity, and overall health, which is why multivitamin manufacturers offer a range of products tailored to the needs of different groups of people.
Multivitamins for children contain a mix of vitamins in doses tailored to their needs. They may also contain minerals like calcium.
Note: Never present multivitamins to children as a form of candy, as this could encourage them to take more than the recommended dose.
Adults (men and women)
These kinds of multivitamins are tailored to the needs of healthy adults. The women’s version contains a little more iron than the men’s, to compensate for iron loss through menstruation.
Note: Always keep adult multivitamins that contain iron out of reach of children, as even relatively low quantities of iron can be dangerous for kids.
Women seeking to conceive, or who are pregnant or nursing
These multivitamins contain a higher dose of folic acid, a vitamin essential to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the foetus. They also contain more iron, to meet the higher iron requirements of these women, especially after childbirth and during breastfeeding.
It is recommended that women start taking a multivitamin high in folic acid at least 3 months before they plan to become pregnant (ideally three months before quitting contraception). They should continue taking it throughout pregnancy and after childbirth, at least until they have stopped breastfeeding.
Men and women age 50 and up (or seniors)
Compared to regular adult versions, these multivitamins usually contain higher doses of calcium and vitamin D, which are important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Since women age 50 and over are likely menopausal, the amount of iron is slightly lower than in the regular product.
AREDS formula for the prevention or treatment of macular degeneration
Products labelled as AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Studies) contain supplements used in a broad research study on macular degeneration, an eye disease that can result in blindness. These multivitamins are recommended by optometrists or eye doctors for the prevention and treatment of this disease.
Manufacturers sometimes add other natural ingredients to their regular vitamin and mineral formulas, such as:
- Lutein: an antioxidant that is believed to be good for eye health
- Lycopene: an antioxidant that has been linked to heart health and fighting certain cancers
- Omega-3s: added to children’s multivitamins for brain development; in adults, omega-3s are believed to be beneficial to the heart and the digestive system, among others.
- Ginseng: a plant extract believed to have a beneficial effect on energy levels and concentration
- Phytosterols: plant extracts believed to reduce blood cholesterol levels
Similar formulas but highly different doses: Which should I choose?
Different brand multivitamins aimed at a particular group of people can sometimes contain very different doses of the same vitamins and minerals. So how do you know which to choose?
Products that contain higher doses, such as those that meet 100% of your daily requirements, are not necessarily a better choice. If your diet is relatively varied, you are probably getting a considerable proportion—if not all—of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
With vitamins, like with so many other things in life, moderation is generally the best course of action.
Before taking multivitamins, it’s best to consult your pharmacist. They can help you determine if you really need one and select the product that is right for you. If you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, your pharmacist will also advise you on when to take your multivitamin so it doesn’t interact with them.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.