Almost half of all American adults take a multivitamin – but does your body actually absorb all it needs from a multivitamin to improve long-term health outcomes?
Experts have been studying the effect of multivitamins for quite some time, and while some think they might fill in nutritional gaps, others contend they’re nothing more than an expensive pill.
The reality is that although multivitamins may minimally increase your intake of some vitamins, the majority aren’t optimally designed to make an impactful difference in your overall health.
Plus, not all multivitamins are created equally.
So what does this mean for vitamin users? What alternatives exist to make a real difference in supplementation and optimizing your health?
In this article, we explain:
- The difference between multivitamins and supplementation
- Ineffective dosing of ingredients in multivitamins
- Alternatives to taking multivitamins
- Nutrient supplements for women’s health
The difference between multivitamins and supplementation stacks
Before we dive in, it is important to understand the difference between a multivitamin and a supplementation stack.
What are multivitamins?
Multivitamins are dietary supplements, often available over-the-counter, containing a combination of vitamins and minerals in one single tablet, capsule or gummy.
They are typically designed to help people fill in nutritional gaps and meet the bare minimum recommended intake of essential nutrients. Multivitamins usually contain a broad range of vitamins and minerals.
What is a supplementation stack?
On the other hand, supplementation stacks often include a more clinically targeted combination of nutrients and vitamins designed to support specific health goals, such as improving cognitive function, aiding sleep, boosting energy and preventing long-term health complications.
Supplementation stacks might include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal extracts and more. They also typically come with specific instructions on how to ingest the supplement – time of day, with or without food – to optimize absorption.
Ineffective dosing of ingredients in multivitamins
Let us be clear – research suggests that there is no long-term harm to taking common multivitamins.
But it is also important to understand that there is little to no evidence that multivitamins are beneficial to long-term health.
The most important thing you should take away from this article is: do your own research.
When it comes to any type of supplementation, it’s important to understand the following:
- Effectiveness: The clinical evidence available on the specific vitamin, mineral or herb you’re considering
- Purity: Be mindful of any unwanted fillers that may reduce effectiveness
- Dosing: The dosing required to make a difference in your health
- Timing: The best time of day to ingest a supplement
- Absorption: What else may be required to aid with absorption
For example, some vitamins are absorbed better when taken with foods, like Vitamins A, E, D, and K. These are vitamins that are best absorbed when taken with fats.
Ultimately the timing, dosing, and absorption of any supplement will depend on the specific supplement you’re taking and your own individual needs.
Ask yourself why you are taking a multivitamin
If you are taking a multivitamin simply because you want to add a little boost to your overall daily vitamin intake, then at best it’s possible your multivitamins are doing what you want and at worst they may be creating expensive urine.
Ensure you research a credible manufacturer and pay attention to any unwanted fillers that may be in the ingredient list.
Tip: Use our checklist at the end of our article “Why Take Supplements? 5 Reasons It’s Essential” as a guide to use when shopping for supplements.
If you are turning to multivitamins because you want to make improvements to your long-term health, then you should consider several things before making your choice:
- Do you have specific nutrient deficiencies that you are trying to address?
- Do you know the daily recommended amount of each vitamin or mineral in order to be effective in your body?
- Does the multivitamin you’re considering contain enough of that ingredient to make a difference?
- Are you enhancing or hindering the absorption of vitamins depending on the form of the vitamin, if you should or shouldn’t take it with meals, time of day and other factors like interactions with medications?
Nutrient dosing and long-term health
According to research, multivitamins are not effective in decreasing health issues like:
- Heart disease or later heart attacks
- Mental declines such as memory loss or slowed-down thinking
If you are taking a multivitamin in order to decrease risk of these or other health complications, then a multivitamin may not be your best option.
The dosing of ingredients in multivitamins is usually so low that they are sub-par for actual disease prevention.
Additionally, multivitamins are not likely to be formulated to address specific symptoms. For example, if you are a perimenopausal woman experiencing symptoms such as stress, muscle aches, disrupted sleep or poor gut health, a generic multivitamin you buy off-the-shelf will not contain the vitamins, minerals and ingredients needed to move the needle in addressing these symptoms.
If you’re interested in making a difference to your long-term health or have specific health related goals, then turning to a supplementation stack might be a better solution.
We can’t stress it enough – do your own research
Consider the key ingredients that you need in order to address a specific symptom or vitamin deficiency in your body, and review the ingredients on multivitamins.
Below are a few articles on the benefits of specific vitamins and minerals to get you started:
- Types of B Vitamins and Their Health Benefits
- What is Vitamin D and Why is it Important?
- 8 Types of Magnesium and Their Health Benefits
- What are Adaptogens and Why Should You Take Them?
- What Are Functional Mushrooms?
- 5 Health Benefits of Antioxidants
- The Concerns with Taking Calcium Supplements
- How to Sleep Better at Night (featuring natural sleep aids)
- How to Balance Hormones Naturally
Risks of absorbing too many vitamins
There are some vitamins that aren’t good in large doses.
For example, take a look at the effects calcium can have on long-term health when not taken in moderation.
Taking too much vitamin E can actually lead to increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Similarly, taking too much vitamin A can cause health complications such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and lack of coordination, which in older adults can put them at serious risk of falling and sustaining serious injuries.
Always consider looking at a dietary reference for vitamin intake to understand how much of each vitamin your body needs to be healthy.
We recommend that you do not make any decisions without first speaking to your family doctor about what your body needs.
Alternatives to taking multivitamins
When it comes to getting the basic vitamins and minerals your body needs, the best alternative to a multivitamin is diet and exercise.
Many of the vitamins your body needs in order to improve long-term health can be obtained through a healthy diet and daily exercise – both of which are more effective than multivitamins.
If you’re looking beyond the basic daily dose of important nutrients, another alternative to multivitamins is exploring a supplement stack.
As mentioned earlier, supplement stacks typically offer:
- Targeted support: For example, Essentials by Revivele (coming soon!) is a supplement stack designed to support women in their perimenopausal and postmenopausal years, and contains ingredients specifically formulated for prevention of cognitive decline
- Improved nutrient absorption: Some supplement stacks include ingredients that enhance nutrient absorption
- Convenience: Compared to creating your own handful of different pills and herbs, supplement stacks provide a highly curated and convenient way to get a targeted combination of nutrients
- Educational support: Many supplement stacks also come with education from the manufacturer on how to get the most out of your supplements, whether that be through a blog, pamphlets, or social media.
Nutrient supplements for women’s health
Revivele’s founder, Dr. Kavita Desai, recently published a book – Lady Parts – in which she talks about the disturbing lack of expertise or understanding in the medical community when it comes to women’s long-term health.
Revivele was created to fill that void with compassionate, factual information that will help women improve their overall health outcomes. Revivele is also on a mission to encourage more women to learn more about their health and advocate for their needs.
Women face challenges that men don’t – which is why Revivele provides female-led, research-focused health information to help you shape your present, and your future.
Revivele is also gearing up to release its targeted supplementation stack for women: Essentials by Reviele.
Want to learn more about women’s health and wellness?
Consider ordering a copy of the book, Lady Parts.