Do Multivitamins Work?

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Do Multi Vitamins Work

Through proper nutrition, your body should receive the recommended daily value of vitamins and minerals that it requires. However, for some, it can be difficult to maintain good eating habits while keeping close track of all of the food that you put into your mouth. With a busy lifestyle, many people do not eat the healthiest of diets. In these cases, a daily multivitamin and mineral can help fill in the gaps and may be a great choice for you and your family.

Some health conditions can cause you to be at risk for vitamin deficiencies such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, as well as diabetes. Also it is known that taking some prescription medications may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as does a vegan or vegetarian diet. Along with the aforementioned, stress in your life can also lead to an increased utilization of nutrients and an increased demand.


What is a Multivitamin?

Multivitamins are supplements that contain essential vitamins and minerals at the relatively low levels that the body normally requires. They can sometimes be called multivitamin and mineral. They are often available in many different forms including tablets, capsules, gummies, powders, and liquids and can provide a variety of different vitamins and minerals in differing amounts. A multivitamin can help make up for the shortfalls that happen when your body doesn’t get the vitamins and minerals it needs through food.


What Does Science Say?

Our typical diets have fallen short on achieving the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, in 2014, only about 4 in 10 Canadian adults reported that they consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day. [1] ​​​​​​​​​

Also, according to the Journal of Pediatrics more than 1 in 3 children and teenagers do not meet the recommended intakes for calcium and vitamin D. [2] ​​​​​​​​​

Researchers have found that supplements help adults meet the recommended daily intake of some minerals, [3] ​​​​​​​​​ while another study found that children and teens (ages 9–18) taking supplements had an increase in their micronutrient status in their diets.

More recent research has found an association between multivitamin and mineral use of greater than 3 years and reduced cardiovascular disease mortality risk for women. [4] ​​​​​​​​​ A study has also found a correlation between multivitamin use and beneficial effects on mood, along with elevated B vitamin levels and lowered homocysteine levels in healthy young adults. [5] ​​​​​​​​​

Who Can Benefit from a Multivitamin?

Depending on your life stage or current health, multivitamins can offer some health benefits:

  • Illness recovery – when ill, your body may not be at peak performance and a multivitamin may help provide your body with nutrients necessary to recuperate.
  • Limited diets – people who are on a calorie-restricted diet or those following a vegan or vegetarian diet may not get all the nutrients they need through food intake alone.
  • Pregnancy – pregnant women have higher vitamin needs than non-pregnant women. Regular use of a prenatal multivitamin can decrease the risk of congenital problems for the baby.
  • Memory – cognitive functioning tends to decline with age. Research has found that using a multivitamin helps reduce the risk of micronutrient deficiencies and improves cognitive functioning.[1] ​​​​​​​​​
  • Energy and stress – B-complex vitamins and vitamin C in multivitamins may help improve your body's energy to provide a better physical response to stress.

Multivitamin Facts vs. Myths

MYTH: A healthy diet will provide all the essential nutrients.

FACT: Theoretically this could be true however, based on government health surveys [1] ​​​​​​​​​ we know this is not always the case. Some nutrients are in greater demand by the body than we would normally find in a regular diet such as vitamin D and iron.

MYTH: It doesn’t matter if you take a multivitamin with or without food.

FACT: Multivitamins contain fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K and these need to be taken with some fat from food to be absorbed properly. Although, for some people, taking vitamins on an empty stomach can cause some digestive upset.

MYTH: If you take a multivitamin every day, it doesn’t matter what you eat.

FACT: Multivitamins and supplements are intended to be used to supplement a healthy diet. They should never be regarded as a replacement for proper nutrition.

MYTH: If your urine turns yellow or orange, something is wrong.

FACT: A B vitamin called riboflavin is often the culprit to discoloured urine, turning it bright yellow. There is no need to worry!

What to Look for in a Multivitamin and Mineral

  • Choose a multivitamin that is specific to you and your health needs. 
  • Gender and age-specific multivitamins can help you address the needs that your body may have at different stages of your life. Choose wholefood multivitamins that contain the vitamin complexes. Vitamins from wholefoods may offer additional health benefits by including the added micronutrients, cofactors and phytonutrients found naturally in plants and wholefoods, that work together to provide complete health benefits.
  • Look for products that contain non-GMO ingredients and are free of artificial sweeteners, colours, and preservatives.

Although the best means of obtaining your vitamins and minerals is from a healthy diet, adding a multivitamin and mineral supplement will offer you some “insurance".

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Naturopathic Doctor, natural health and lifestyle expert with 18 years of experience in her field.

References :

[1] Canadian Community Health Survey, 2014 [Accessed December 2016]. 

[2] Bailey RL, Fulgoni III VL, Keast DR, et al. Do dietary supplements improve micronutrient sufficiency in children and adolescents? J Pediatr. 2012; 161(5):837-42. 

[3] Bailey RL, Fulgoni III VL, Keast DR, et al. Dietary supplement use is associated with higher intakes of minerals from food sources. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(5):1376-81.

 [4] Bailey RL, Fakhouri TH, Park Y, et al. Multivitamin-mineral use is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality among women in the United States. J Nutr. 2015; 145(3):572-8. [5] White DJ, Cox KH, Peters R, et al. Effects of 4-week supplementation with a multi-vitamin/mineral preparation on mood and blood biomarkers in young adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients. 2015; 7(11):9005-17.

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