Big Ideas,  Health & Fitness

Why you should (or maybe shouldn’t) be taking a Multivitamin

If only diet was simple. Theres been a lot of talk and studies about multivitamins and whether or not they are good, bad, or neutral for you. Although Multi’s can provide very real health benefits they can also cause a host of problems. You should always speak to your doctor or dietician about making significant changes in your life and that includes huge doses of vitamins, but this is the basics on multivitamins, so let’s get into it.

Just a quick note: I AM NOT A Doctor, I’m not even qualified to play one of TV. But I do read a lot of medical journals. However this is not a replacement for a doctor. Do not take the advice of anything on the Internet as Gospel and always ALWAYS consult a Doctor before you do anything. I am not providing medical advice and if you continue reading, you waive any right to sue me on medical grounds. Again: Not. A. Doctor.

*phew*. With that being said:

Pros and Cons of taking a Multivitamin:

Multivitamins offer concrete benefits. They provide sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals for people who might not be getting them in their current diet. This means they can potentially improve bodily and cognitive function. They are also shown to decrease stress.

and with That being said:

Taking a Multivitamin has been shown to cause many people to pay less attention to their diets. This is bad. You should be getting all the minerals and vitamins you need out of actual damn food.

There are risks involved: taking multivitamins means you could be ingesting way too much of a particular vitamin. Some vitamins will pass through you, no problem. Too much Vitamin D, for example can damage kidneys and blood vessels, although its unclear how much is too much. Taking too much Vitamin A can build up in your body and increase the risk of osteoporosis.


I recommend discussing this very important health decision with your doctor. Don’t take vitamins you don’t need, it can cause big problems. You should monitor, track, and understand what you are putting in your body – multivitamin, food, and otherwise. Be informed, Stay safe.

The most important sentence about vitamins ever written:

No Supplements are Required.*

*unless you have a particular illness/disease/nutritional issue/hereditary condition

You don’t need Multivitamins or supplements.

Think about it: we have thrived for thousands of years as a species without multivitamins and that means we can still go on without them. Nothing will ever beat good diet and regular exercise.

Supplement.  From the latin supplementum and supplere meaning 'fill up' or 'complete'.

Believe it or not, the effectiveness and even importance of a daily multivitamin has been called into question over the past few years. A huge study in 2011 determined most people DO NOT NEED one.

“On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota evaluated 39,000 older women and found that those who took supplemental multivitamins, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron died at rates higher than those who didn’t. They concluded, “Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements.”

another very important and equally true study found:

“Some scientists believe there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against taking a daily multivitamin, because there isn’t yet enough data from randomized controlled trials. (17) That’s a reasonable but short-sighted point of view since it may never be possible to conduct randomized trials that are long enough to test the effects of multiple vitamins on risks of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative conditions.

Looking at all the evidence—from epidemiological studies on diet and health, to biochemical studies on the minute mechanisms of disease—the potential health benefits of taking a standard daily multivitamin appear to outweigh the potential risks for most people. (18)”


Well, both.

If you are pregnant, over 50, or have nutritional deficiencies, you can benefit from taking one. You still focus, however, on eating good food and getting exercise.

“You still will benefit from taking half a daily multivitamin containing important nutrients at levels close to their recommended daily allowance twice a day if you are potentially going to become, or are, pregnant, or as an insurance policy against an inadequate diet in people over 50. – Dr Roizen

If you want to take one to plug gaps you know are in your diet, you should follow some guidelines:

Size: If you want to take one, not the serving size: is it one a day, or two a day. Big difference.

Stay away from anything that has more than 100% daily recommended dosage. That means you are taking more than recommended . That can mean vitamin toxicity. Multi’s can be targeted towards men, women, or children: choose a vitamin based on your age and gender. If you have trouble swallowing larger vitamins, gel-covered or liquid vitamins were also widely available.

If you need to keep away from nuts, gluten or soy, or are a vegetarian, check the ingredients. Some multivitamins may say ‘contains no other ingredients. this can mean they are being bonded with chemicals. Always check.

Some vitamins are food-based. They cost more and are marketed based on better absorption and digestion, but studies about that have been inconclusive so far. Food based vitamins do, however, offer powered fruit or vegetable ingredients, which is something most multivitamins don’t have. That can mean they decrease the chance of upset stomach or stomach pain from taking them. Whether that justifies the extra cost is up to you. The type of vitamin depends on your situation.

Prenatal vitamins, for example, exists to help provide addition nutrients pregnant women may need. Women who are or are looking to become pregnant should consider taking a multivitamin with higher Iron and Folic Acid, which is shown to prevent birth defects. Women as a whole should consider a Multi with Vitamin D and Calcium, to stave off osteoporosis, and most Seniors should consider higher levels of VitD too.

The thing about calcium: you don’t want too much. While you may have been told more calcium means stronger bones, it’s a lot more complex than that. And so is calcium deficiency. Do more research.

Consider a Multivitamin with Iodine. The way and amount we eat bread has changed drastically in the past few years and as a result, we are beginning to see a lot more iodine deficiencies.

Consider a Multivitamin without Iron. Iron supplements are very complex and its often assumed we – mostly women – need one, Get an Iron Panel from your doctor before you take one.

So, the jury is kind of out, depending on your circumstances. A One-size-pill-fits-all approach may help a lot or most people in some cases. You should visit your Doctor and Dietician to discuss what you need. You can even take individual vitamins, to create your own mix.

The best you can do is eat a well-rounded balanced diet, and that includes Spinach, so deal with it. If you think you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, consider taking one after a fireside chat with your Doc.

Just don’t expect to have one every morning and you’ll turn into a Marvel superhero.

Richard James Lee is a Canadian-born Writer, Chef and Entrepreneur. He is the Editor in Chief of Ions and Chef of Kayak SmokeHouse in Toronto. His Printed Works include Dark City Streets and White.


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