Health and wellness is a massive industry right now, with thousands of different products being sold to you in health food shops, online websites, and in pharmacies. Some are incredibly effective and have a lot of scientific evidence to back up their claims, others are complete scams, while most are the subject of great debate. Multivitamins are common supplements for many people these days. But how effective are they and are you getting your moneys worth?
Fat burners for example are often argued over by fitness and nutrition experts. Some say that they work while others disagree. The truth is that some fat burners can be effective, but only when combined with dieting and exercise. They aren’t the magic bullet solution that most purchasers hope they are, but they certainly aren’t useless.
Multivitamins are probably the most commonly taken supplement in the Western world, with hundreds of nutrition experts recommending them. But there are a growing number of dissenting voices, saying that not only are they nowhere near as effective as receiving your vitamins from food and drink, but that multivitamins are a waste of money.
The purpose of this article is to examine the evidence, and find a conclusive answer to the question “Are multivitamins worth your money?”.
What Are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are tablets that contain all of the vitamins that you need and some minerals too. They can be made from natural or synthetic sources (though this does not make too much difference to their effectiveness). According to Precision Nutrition there are six categories of nutrients that are present in multivitamin tablets. These are:
- Naturally Sourced (usually from oils – vegetable oil, cod liver oil, coconut oil etc)
- Nature-Identical Synthetic (nutrients that are synthetically made to be identical to the real thing)
- Strictly Synthetic (basically the same as a nutrient but with a different structure)
- Food Cultured (made from nutrients that have been grown on algae)
- Food Based
- Bacterially Fermented
Most supplements use a combination of naturally sourced, nature-identical synthetic, and strictly synthetic sources to create a full profile of vitamins and minerals. For people who are deficient, multivitamins seem like the perfect solution.
The Case for Multivitamins
To live a healthy and functional life you need vitamins and minerals, they can help with growth, cognition, recovery, and reproduction (plus hundreds of more benefits). A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can cause deficiencies, for example a lack of Vitamin C can cause Scurvy.
It can lead to fatigue, weakness, gum disease, and other unpleasant side effects. A lack of Vitamin D can cause mental fatigue, confusion, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and lowered mood.
You might think that in modern times vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare, how can we live in a time where you can get Amazon to deliver a bag of oranges to your door in 3 hours or less, and yet we have people deficient in Vitamin C?
Well for the most part society is doing okay, but we are still deficient in a number of micronutrients. This can be down to poor dietary choices, poverty, age (the elderly in particular), and perhaps surprisingly … athletes.
Yes, people who participate in highly intense exercise on a regular basis are often at risk of deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. This is because they tend to utilise more vitamins and minerals while training, or through recovery.
Multivitamins are a fantastic solution to all of these people. If you’re a fussy eater, then you can take a multivitamin once per day and know that at least your vitamin and mineral levels will be okay, even if everything else is falling apart. People who can’t afford to eat a wide variety of healthy foods (or don’t have the time to cook them) can take a multivitamin. Same goes for the elderly.
Athletes (particularly those who are dieting for an event) need to be careful about how much they eat. A multivitamin taken alongside their other supplements will help them fill that hole in their diet, without pushing their calories over the edge.
Multivitamins are cheap, easy to take, and can help people to avoid certain diseases, and deficiencies.
The Case Against Multivitamins
Without a doubt, if you can get your vitamins and minerals through your regular diet then you should do so. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and grains are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, and the sources are truly natural. Compare that to a multivitamin where most of the ingredients were made in a lab.
You are also getting a lot of the vitamins and minerals present in a multivitamin in other foods and drinks. Most cereals have added iron, milk is often fortified with vitamins and minerals, and many regular supplements contain added vitamins and minerals.
Then there is the risk of taking too much. If your vitamin C levels are normally high, but your vitamin K levels are low, you might take a multivitamin to prevent a Vitamin K deficiency and end up taking too much Vitamin C. There is a case to be made for taking individual vitamin and mineral supplements rather than a multi.
Are Multivitamins Worth your Money?
It’s difficult to answer that question, as it depends on the person asking it. If you lead a healthy life already and try to hit your targets through diet, then a multivitamin would be a poor replacement. On the other hand, most people do not do that. Most people eat unhealthy diets, in which case a multivitamin could be very effective.
It is important that you reach your targets by any means necessary, but you should be aiming to do that through diet. If you cannot manage that then by all means by a multivitamin. But just as we mentioned about fat burners earlier, a multivitamin does not work in a vacuum.
It should be a small part of the solution if you are thinking of taking one because your diet is bad then definitely go for it. But don’t then rest on your laurels. Use this opportunity to also add some more fruit and vegetables to your day, and maybe consider some exercise too.