Should I Be Taking A Multivitamin?



The $40 billion dietary supplement industry might have you convinced that you should be taking a variety of supplements. Among these, a multivitamin is usually at the top of the list. You may be asking yourself, “Is this really what I need?” “And if so, which multivitamin supplement is right for me?” 

For some, a multivitamin may be necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies or supplement nutrients that are lacking in the diet. For others, multivitamin use may leave you with very expensive urine. 

Assess Your Daily Intake 

The first step in determining if a multivitamin is right for you is to assess your daily dietary intake. For the average healthy adult, it is possible to receive all the nutrition you need daily through a well-balanced diet. A simple solution to avoid nutrient deficiencies is to follow the CDC’s MyPlate guide.

Following this simple guide is much easier said than done. With busy days and packed schedules, opting for convenient, ready-to-eat foods may leave you with few fruits and veggies in your daily routine. 

So, if you follow a relatively consistent diet that closely represents MyPlate you probably don’t need extra supplementation.  

However, if you are unable to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein on a daily basis, then a multivitamin might be right for you.

Are You At Risk For Nutritional Deficiency? 

The second step is knowing if you are at an increased risk for a nutritional deficiency. The following summarizes who might fall into this category:

  • Older adults 
    • Chewing and swallowing difficulty often increases with age, while vitamin B12 absorption decreases. This may lead to the need for single vitamin or multivitamin supplementation
  • Pregnant Women 
    • Nutrient needs increase during pregnancy. It is recommended that women who are trying to conceive consume a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin to ensure they are receiving essential vitamins and minerals throughout pregnancy. 
  • Lactating Women
    • Nutrient needs remain increased after pregnancy though lactation.
    • These needs are different than during pregnancy, so a postnatal or lactation multivitamin is recommended for this season.
  • Medical Conditions 
    • Certain medical conditions such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or cystic fibrosis may lead to nutrient malabsorption. 
    • Other conditions including prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, alcoholism, or surgeries that remove part of the colon may also lead to malabsorption
  • Medication Use 
    • Certain medications such as diuretics and proton pump inhibitors may interfere with nutrient absorption. 
    • Talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking to see if you may benefit from a vitamin or mineral supplement. 
  • Dietary Restrictions & Fad Diets 
    • Vegetarianism, the keto diet, the gluten-free diet, and many other dietary restrictions do exactly what they are categorized as – they restrict. Each dietary restriction eliminates something from the diet. For example, vegetarianism eliminates meat from the diet which may reduce one’s daily intake of B vitamins, iron, and zinc. In this case, multivitamin supplementation might be necessary. 

If you fall under any of these categories or suspect you might be at risk for a nutritional deficiency, consult your doctor to see which supplement is right for you. 

Food First Mentality 

Although there are many reasons one might need vitamin supplementation, it is always best to go with a “food first” mentality, and here’s why:

  • Nutrients are absorbed more efficiently from food  
  • Food provides benefits beyond synthetic vitamins and minerals. Certain foods offer nonessential nutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols, each with many health benefits.
  • When consumed naturally through food, excess vitamin and mineral intake are unlikely to cause harm to the body 
  • When taken in large doses through supplementation, excess vitamins and minerals are excreted in the urine. Prolonged, excessive supplementation intake can lead to harmful effects on the body, such as vitamin toxicity

The Bottom Line 

It’s best to consume a variety of foods to provide the essential nutrients you need daily. However, there are many reasons why this may not be attainable. Therefore, along with a well-balanced diet, multivitamin supplementation may benefit you and ensure that you receive adequate nutrition to help protect your body and keep you healthy. 

If you are still unsure whether a vitamin supplement is right for you, speak with a registered dietitian to help you assess your needs. 

Written by Sheridan Glaske, MS, RDN, LD


1. CDC

2. Healthline

3. Harvard

#healthyliving #nutrition #eathealthy

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