Multivitamins: uses, benefits and things to know
If you want to support your body’s needs, you may be reaching for a bottle of multivitamins, but with so many choices it can feel overwhelming. We’ve put together a guide on multivitamins, looking at what they are, what they can be used for, what they do and what you need to know before taking them.
Table of contents
What are multivitamins?
Multivitamins are dietary supplements that contain several different vitamins and minerals. Some people take multivitamins to maintain their overall health and wellness, provide immune support or compensate for an unbalanced diet.
Some common minerals found in multivitamins include iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Multivitamins come in a range of formats, suitable for both adults and children. They’re available in tablet form, as chewable gummies, in capsules, or as effervescent tablets to be dissolved in water. This means that if you’re looking to add a multivitamin into your diet, it’s easy to find one that works best for you and your lifestyle.
You should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals you need to support your body from a healthy, balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. The foods you eat can have a major impact on your health, and if you’re not meeting the recommended daily intake of certain essential nutrients you may not feel your best. For example, you might struggle with low levels of energy if you’re not getting enough vitamin B12, which helps to release energy from your food.
If you have a poor diet or pre-existing health condition, vitamin deficiency (low levels of vitamins) can occur. If you have any questions or concerns about vitamin deficiency contact your pharmacist for dietary advice and doctor or other medical professional for specific testing or diagnosis.
The uses of multivitamins
People take a range of different multivitamins for different purposes. Some multivitamins are marketed towards:
- Immunity, with vitamins like vitamin C and D which support your immune system
- Energy, with nutrients like vitamin B12 that helps to release energy from your food, or magnesium, that helps reduce tiredness and fatigue
- Beauty, with nutrients like vitamin B7 (biotin) that contributes to supporting normal hair and skin, or zinc, that helps to maintain healthy nails
Some people also take multivitamins as part of their sports or fitness routines.
There may be a range of reasons you want to start taking a multivitamin. While you should be able to get all the nutrients you need from your diet, sometimes you might need a little extra support – either because of your life stage, lifestyle or even the time of year!
Vitamin D, for example, is an essential vitamin that regulates the amount of calcium in our bodies and contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Your body makes vitamin D from light from the sun hitting your skin, but in the winter (between October and early March) you might not be getting all the sunlight you need to have adequate vitamin D levels. The NHS recommends that everyone thinks about taking a vitamin D supplement during these months.
You may want to take a multivitamin during pregnancy to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for you and your baby. It’s recommended by the NHS that you supplement folic acid and vitamin D, and avoid vitamin A. Remember, you should always talk to your doctor before taking supplements during pregnancy.
Dietary restrictions can also be a factor when choosing to take multivitamins. For example, if you follow a vegan diet you may be recommended to take a multivitamin that includes vitamin B12, as it’s mostly found in animal products like fish, meat and dairy. Omega-3 EPA and DHA, which support heart health and are found in fish, are also essential nutrients that are often found in low levels in people who have a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Many nutrients are found in abundance in specific food, and if they aren’t a part of your diet you may not be getting enough. For example, dairy products like milk and cheese are high in calcium, which supports healthy bones.
Multivitamins: important things to know
While multivitamins can benefit people who need a little extra support, they should never be used to replace a healthy, balanced diet.
All multivitamins will include different vitamins and minerals in different amounts, and you should ensure you always read the label and follow the dosage instructions and recommended use. Make sure you also make yourself aware of the ingredients, so you know exactly what nutrients the multivitamin contains, as taking too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful.
For water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B2, the body can flush away any excess in your pee. But it’s harder for the body to remove excess fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, and they can build up in your liver, resulting in toxic levels of the vitamin in your body. Iron can also be harmful if taken in excess, resulting in vomiting, constipation and an upset stomach.
Remember, if you’re interested in taking a multivitamin, research what nutrients would be best for your diet and lifestyle and always make sure you’re aware of what exactly you’re taking. If you’re unsure, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.