What’s the deal with multivitamins?

By Helen Sanders, Health Ambition


Most people know that getting the right nutrition is important, especially as we age. Multivitamins are the little one-a-day supplement which although shouldn’t replace a good diet, can help you to fill any nutritional gaps you may have.

But what’s the deal with multivitamins? Should we take them?


What Are Multivitamins?

Multivitamins are dietary supplements that offer some of the most essential vitamins and minerals we tend to be lacking from our diets.


Vitamins come in two varieties:

  • Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by the body, which don’t store large amounts. The kidneys remove the vitamins that are not needed.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed into the body with the use of bile acids, which are fluids used to absorb fat. The body stores these for use as needed.


Vitamins – The Basics

  • Vitamin A – responsible for vision
  • Vitamin B12 – helps make DNA
  • Vitamin B6 – makes neurotransmitters
  • Vitamin C – powerful antioxidant
  • Vitamin D – aids absorption of calcium
  • Vitamin E – powerful antioxidant
  • Vitamin K – promotes blood coagulation
  • Thiamine – converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy
  • Riboflavin – helps metabolize fats
  • Niacin – helps metabolize protein
  • Pantothenic acid – helps produce energy
  • Biotin – aids hair health and growth
  • Folate – promotes healthy cell growth


Minerals – The Basics

  • Calcium – builds strong bones and teeth
  • Chromium – helps regulate blood sugar
  • Iodine – produces thyroid hormones
  • Iron – aids formation of red blood cells
  • Lutein – prevents eye diseases
  • Lycopene – promotes heart health
  • Magnesium – promotes protein synthesis
  • Manganese – helps form connective tissue
  • Molybdenum – aids the breakdown of amino acids
  • Nickel – aids chemical processes
  • Potassium – crucial for healthy heart function
  • Selenium – works as an antioxidant
  • Vanadium – helps maintain blood pressure


Who Should Take Multivitamins?

As we age, we need less calories in our daily diets. However, this reduced caloric requirement does not mean we need fewer nutrients – actually quite the opposite. As we get older, we actually need more nutrients to maintain optimum health (source).

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states only 33% of adults meet the recommendation for fruit consumption and only 27% get their recommended servings of vegetables per day (source). This is even more difficult for older people because as we mentioned above, we don’t have as many calories to work with as our younger counterparts.

This can lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals due to eating less food. A multivitamin can be a good way to fill those gaps.

In a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 10% of the entire U.S. population is deficient in at least one essential nutrient. The highest number of deficiencies are in vitamins B12, B6, C, D and E as well as the minerals iron and folate.

We can’t forget those with restricted diets such as vegetarians or people with food intolerances like celiac disease. People in these categories should definitely take a daily multivitamin according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Moreover, as 51 is the average age for women to begin menopause, it is important for women over 50 to ensure they are filling any nutritional gaps they may have in their diets.

As so many essential nutrients have roles to play in the balance of hormones, taking a daily multivitamin can help alleviate the symptoms and body changes associated with the onset of menopause.

Due to the drop in estrogen, bone density begins to significantly decrease and women’s risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis rises. This is why it is crucial to get enough calcium and vitamin D.

Vitamin D is necessary to aid absorption of calcium and vitamin D deficiency is a major problem in the U.S. A recent study showed that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and is an important risk factor of leading causes of death in the United States” (source).

Women over 50 should be aiming for 1200 mg of calcium daily, accompanied by 600 IU of vitamin D, which allows the body to better absorb calcium.


So What’s the Deal With Multivitamins?

When it comes to multivitamin supplements, most people could benefit from their use, but even more so those with restrictive diets and over the age of 50.

Getting the right nutrition is always important and it should be noted that supplements are never a substitute for a poor diet and bad food choices.

Getting the nutrition you need from whole-food sources should be your first choice each and every time. However, if you are still finding it difficult to meet your nutritional needs despite following a healthy diet, multivitamin supplements could be a good option.


For more of Helen’s health tips, visit her website.