How to Pick the Best Multivitamin?

How to Pick the Best Multivitamin?

Getting all your nutrients from food is great, but realistically speaking, it may not be possible all the time. If you travel often, have a stressful job, or if you tend to skip meals, it can be challenging to get all the crucial nutrients. Most often, people are time-crunched to plan their meals and don’t eat a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. It could mean a deficiency in one or more nutrients.

Whether you are short on time or on a fad-diet frenzy, it can be challenging to get all the crucial nutrients for your health. This is where multivitamins fill in gaps in your diet.

What is a multivitamin?

Many people wonder what a multivitamin is. They are a combination of multiple vitamins and minerals, hence the prefix “multi.” A multivitamin is a great primer to boost your health, and it may also lower the risk of chronic diseases. Many types of are available on the market. The amount of nutrients and the composition of multivitamins differs from one manufacturer to another.

To better understand the benefits of multivitamins, it is vital to know what a vitamin is and how vitamins can help. Vitamins are essential for your cells and organs to work well. They are organic compounds that cannot be made by your body and must be obtained from your food. They activate the enzymes, so the body’s normal metabolic functions like digestion, absorption, etc. happen seamlessly.

Some of the characteristics of vitamins:

  • Most B vitamins are part of an enzyme, and they are called coenzymes.
  • B vitamins can protect your tissues from damage.
  • Along with minerals, vitamins such as vitamin C, and A provide antioxidants to boost your immune system.
  • Vitamins support liver function and help with efficient detoxification.

Why do you need a multivitamin?

In an ideal world, a multivitamin supplement is not a necessity if:

  • You eat a wide variety of produce.
  • Your food comes from nutrient-rich soil.
  • You are not following a fad diet or have any dietary restrictions due to health conditions.

But, it may not be the case! The Boston Medical Center states that an estimated 45 million people in the U.S. follow some type of diet each year[1].

Also, a landmark study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (December 2004) found that the nutritional content of 43 produce products had dropped over the past half-century. [2]  It included nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, iron, and vitamin C.

The advent of fast food culture has influenced our food choices. Most do not consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and likely don’t receive the full spectrum of nutrients from their menu. This presents a strong case for using multivitamin supplements that are sourced from real foods.

Evidence-based facts on multivitamins

A 2002 review found that vitamin deficiencies can lead to certain chronic diseases, and taking supplements help the situation. [3]

A study from Swinburne University, Australia, found in a randomized controlled trial that multivitamin supplements may improve mood and general well-being in healthy adults. This study spanned over 16- weeks and involved 138 healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 50 [4]. Study participants in the multivitamin group reported reduced fatigue, anxiety, and stress as opposed to those that took a placebo.

A recent 2017 study revealed that nearly one-third of the U.S. population is at risk of deficiency in at least one vitamin or has anemia[5]. The study found that some groups of the population got inadequate amounts of specific B vitamins such as B6, B12, and folate from their diet.

Who should take multivitamins?

Evidence shows that taking multivitamins is helpful and crucial, but who should take multivitamins to benefit their health? Given our fast-paced lives and the type of food we eat, almost all of us need multivitamins. Taking a multivitamin does help boost your health. However, specific groups of people do need to take these multivitamins.

Types of multivitamins

There are many different varieties of multivitamins available in the market, depending on several factors. For instance, the ingredients of a multivitamin for men can be different from that of a multivitamin for women. The requirement for vitamins differs with age, gender and health condition.

Pregnant women need a special type of multivitamin with increased folic acid content compared to others. Similarly, there are multivitamins specially formulated for those with kidney problems.

People with a sensitivity to iron prefer to choose a special type of multivitamin without iron.

Benefits of Taking Multivitamins

There are several benefits to taking multivitamins. They can:

  • Help fill the nutritional gaps in our diet. Falling short of certain micronutrients can lead to health issues like chronic fatigue, bone loss, and anemia. There can be nutritional deficiencies if you are on a restrictive diet for a specific health condition such as kidney problems or if you frequently diet based on what is trending, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Promote healthy growth in children. Vitamins such as vitamin D are crucial for growth and developing bones. B vitamins like B6, B12 also play a crucial role in bone formation. Deficiency of Vitamin D and other essential nutrients can lead to long-term consequences.
  • Enhance mental well-being. Besides promoting physical well-being, multivitamins also help lower stress and anxiety. A study from the journal Psychopharmacology found that subjects that who took a multivitamin supplement tended to rate themselves as less tired and better able to focus on tasks compared to those that took a placebo. The study was a double-blinded study in which participants did not know who received the multivitamins and placebos.
  • Improve eye health. Taking multivitamin supplements containing specific nutrients can help lower the risk of eye-related issues. Examples are eye conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts among older adults. Studies show that multivitamins can help reduce the risk of cataract symptoms in older adults, a condition that leads to vision loss. [7]
  • Boosts heart health. Multivitamins containing CoQ10 help to improve heart health. Studies show that low levels of CoQ10 are associated with increased mortality in patients after a cardiac arrest.[8]
  • Boosts energy levels. Taking multivitamins containing B12, CoQ10, iron, and other micronutrients promote better energy levels. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps convert the food you eat into energy to be used by the body. Optimal B12 levels help ward off fatigue. Your cells also use CoQ10 for energy release and protect themselves from damage.[9] CoQ10 levels tend to decrease with age and tend to be lowest for people who take statins.
  • Supports healthy pregnancy. Pregnancy vitamins are recommended to help women keep up with increased demands for nutrients. Prenatal vitamins that contain folate, iron, vitamin B12, and other crucial nutrients ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Who should take a multivitamin?

While taking multivitamins can benefit everyone, here is a checklist of people who may do better with multivitamin supplements:

  • Those who take up fad dieting.
  • Poor eating habits - skipping meals, binge eating.
  • If you don’t eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Athletes or people who actively work out in the gym.
  • Those who experience a high-stress at work.
  • If your diet lacks nutrient-rich foods.
  • Elderly that experience loss of appetite.
  • People with malabsorption issues (having trouble absorbing nutrients efficiently). Examples include those with celiac disease, pancreatitis, etc.
  • Those who have certain food allergies.
  • People who have undergone weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery).
  • People on special diets such as vegan diet or a vegetarian diet.
  • Those who have dental problems, or an inability to chew or take certain foods.

Do you need a multivitamin supplement?

The following symptoms are classic signs that you are low on certain nutrients and need a multivitamin supplement. Often, the symptoms occur along with other health issues and don’t present as exclusive signs.

  • Pale or peeling skin
  • Broken nails
  • Hair loss
  • Bumpy skin on the back of your arms
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Symptoms like brain fog, lack of focus
  • Frequent bouts of cold

 When is the best time to take a multivitamin?

There are no specific times to take multivitamins.  Yet, it is best to take them along with your meals to improve absorption of nutrients and minimize discomfort.

Vitamin and mineral recommendations based on age

  • Teen years: Teen or adolescent years are characterized by growth and increased nutritional demands. Teens should get enough calcium and vitamin D from their diet for bone growth. Vitamin D is also crucial for improving your immune function, and it is vital for overall health, besides teeth and bone development. Iron is another critical nutrient because it helps in red blood cell formation.

    Teen girls, in particular, have an increased need for iron, since they start menstruating and lose more iron. Include foods rich in iron like fish, meat, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The recommended dosage of iron per day for teen girls is 15 milligrams. [10]
  • Nutrition in your 20s: You will need to pump up your magnesium intake in your twenties. High-stress levels increase the need for this nutrient. Look for multivitamins that provide magnesium, along with vitamin B complex, to cope with the demands of work stress.

    If you are a female, choose a multivitamin that comes with magnesium and vitamin B6 combination to beat premenstrual issues. Research shows that a combination of B6 and magnesium help to combat PMS symptoms. [11]
  • Nutrition in your 30s: The metabolic rate drops in the 30s and weight gain happens with ease. This is the time most people lean toward fad diets or restrictive diets, which can put them at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Choose multivitamins that supply probiotics in their formulation, to improve digestion, and keep your body healthy. Research shows that healthy gut bacteria helps to stay in a healthy weight. [12][13]

    If you are planning for parenthood, this is an excellent time to eat wise and choose supplements that contain fertility-promoting nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin E, folate, CoQ10, omega-3 fats, etc.
  • Nutrition in your 40s: The 40s are when you start feeling the signs of aging, such as knee pain, body aches, and fatigue. Look for a multivitamin that supplies all the B complex vitamins, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, Biotin (B7), B12 and folic acid. They help improve energy levels, mood, sleep, digestion, and heart health.

    For women, perimenopause hits around this time. For some early, while for others, they are preparing to enter perimenopause that comes right before menopause. Symptoms like hot flashes, hormonal changes, bone loss, changes to the skin, etc. begin now. Choose a multivitamin that provides B complex vitamins along with vitamin D, calcium, magnesium to support healthy bone.
  • Nutrition in your 50s and 60s: The 50s and the 60s demand more attention to getting nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D3, and calcium in your diet.

    Taking medication for heartburn or over-the-counter prescriptions called histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RA) or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) for more than two years can cause B12 Vitamin B12 deficiency also leads to depression and dementia. [14]

    Low vitamin B12 increases the levels of homocysteine, a type of protein, which increases the risk factor for heart disease. The Institute of Medicine advises that adults over the age of 50 should get their vitamin B12 in the form is supplements instead of food sources.[15] The recommended dosage for B12 is 2.6 mg per day.[16]

    Low vitamin D and calcium levels increase the risk of falls and fractures in adults over 50.

    Women in post-menopause phase should take multivitamin supplements without iron. Postmenopausal women no longer need high amounts of iron since they stop menstruating and so no loss of iron. Too much iron is not safe and is linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancer.[17] Unless advised by the doctor, it is safe to stay away from multivitamins that contain iron in their formulation.  Adult men's and senior's multivitamins formulations will also not contain iron. 

Multivitamins benefit special health conditions

  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a period of heightened nutrition needs, and taking a multivitamin is a great way to ensure that you don’t fall short of specific nutrients. Nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, vitamin D, etc. are vital for the baby’s growth and development. It is crucial that your multivitamin delivers these nutrients and in amounts assigned for a pregnant mother’s daily needs.
  • Postmenopausal women: Studies show that multivitamin supplements containing calcium, and vitamin D may help increase bone mineral density and decrease the rate of fractures among postmenopausal women.[18] Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D might increase bone mineral density and decrease fracture rates in postmenopausal women.
  • Elderly: People who are 65 years or older will develop malabsorption issues with aging. It poses a serious challenge to the elderly resulting in nutritional deficiencies such as pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is a condition that occurs due to malabsorption of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 absorption is a complex process that becomes less efficient with age.[19] The process involves the stomach acid secretion, pancreas, and small intestine. If any of these organs show loss of function due to aging, it impairs Vitamin B12 absorption leading to B12 deficiency. If you are over age 65 years, avoid supplements that provide B12 in the form of cyanocobalamin. This form requires the body to convert it to methylcobalamin form. Choosing supplements that contain the active form of B12, helps help in the efficient absorption of this nutrient by the body.

What nutrients to look for in a multivitamin?

With so many multivitamins on the market, both retail and online, it gets tricky to make a choice. Don’t let the variety of options discourage your attempt to pick the right multivitamin supplement that works for you.

Here are a few things that can guide you when shopping for a multivitamin:

  • Choose multivitamins sourced from real foods: Multivitamins that offer organic blends and sourced from real fruits and vegetables like beetroot, carrots, etc makes a world of difference when it comes to the bioavailability of nutrients and efficient absorption by the body.

    For instance, Douglas LabsUltra Preventive X is formulated with organic fruits and vegetables for complete optimal health support. The product also contains an organic phytonutrient blend with polyphenols. It delivers a higher choline content for methylation and liver support, increased lutein and zeaxanthin for vision health, three types of vitamin B12, and improved mineral forms for bioavailability.
  • Shop for nutrients: Certain nutrients have specific roles in your body and looking for these nutrients in the ingredient list label of your multivitamin ensures that your supplement does the job. For instance, choosing multivitamins that provide B complex vitamins containing folate and B12 help fight fatigue. Note that synthetic folate is of no use, and folate in the form of methyl folate or quatrefolic is more bioavailable to you than synthetic folic acid.

    Here is an example of another multivitamin supplement, Integrative Therapeutics Clinical Nutrients HP. This once-daily multivitamin supplement is formulated with Quatrefolic® Brand 5-MTHF. It is a type of folate that is best used by your body.
  • Choose a combination that works for you: Multivitamin supplements are available with iron and without iron. For some, too much iron in their diet poses a problem. It interferes with the absorption of other nutrients. Also, some people have a sensitive system and may react to iron. In such a scenario, it is best to choose a multivitamin that delivers the nutrients without iron.

    Such is a product Spectramin Chelate from Douglas Laboratories that offers nutrients like calcium, boron, magnesium, zinc, and iodine in a chelated form that is formulated without the combination of iron.

    Nutrients and other ingredients are just one half of the effort; there is yet another important aspect about choosing your supplements - manufacturer.

Ensure the following facts about your manufacturer/supplement

  • GMP compliant: GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice is a system of ensuring that products are consistently produced according to quality standards. A GMP-compliant manufacturer ensures that all aspects of production adhere to the standards. Make sure the process from raw materials, premises, and equipment to the training and personal hygiene of staff is checked and falls within the set standard of quality. A GMP-certified product implies that it abides by quality.
  • Third-party testing: A third-party testing is a quality control assessment run by an outside source for unbiased results. Although a supplement manufacturer will have their in-house quality control in place, third-party testing is crucial. It makes sure that the results were not manipulated and attests to the company’s products. Third-party testing allows testing for all product quality and safety issues that may pose a risk of harm to consumers.
  • Best quality: Choosing a manufacturer that holds the highest standards and quality is important. It helps avoid cheap, synthetic vitamins, supplements with food dyes, artificial sweeteners, and other filler ingredients. With so many supplements in the market, some manufacturers cut corners with quality of nutrients. Choose supplements that provide only pure ingredients for safety and potency.

We do the research for you

At Supplement First, we do the research for you and offer only the best and high-quality brands. When you buy supplements from our featured brands, namely Douglas LaboratoriesPure Encapsulationsand Integrative Therapeutics, you can be sure of the safety and the quality of the supplements you buy.

Points to remember about multivitamins

  • Not a meal replacement: Taking a multivitamin does not replace a day’s meal.
  • Supplements a healthy diet:Multivitamins are to be taken as part of a healthy meal plan to boost health.
  • Choose multivitamins that suit your needs: Always choose multivitamins for your age and health condition. For example, pregnant women have an increased need for specific nutrients, and a regular multivitamin may not meet their requirements.
  • Avoid overdosing: If you are already on iron supplement and want to add a multivitamin to your regimen, choose a multivitamin that comes without iron to avoid overdosing on iron. This rule applies to all nutrients.
  • Take plenty of fluids: It is important to drink plenty of fluids when taking your supplements to promote better ingestion and digestion.


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