Multivitamin: Necessity or Not?

Last Updated: February 17, 2024

Multivitamins are a popular dietary supplement, taken by many people in the belief that they provide a wide range of health benefits. However, the question of whether or not you actually need a multivitamin is a complex one, and the answer will depend on your individual dietary and health needs.

What are Multivitamins?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that a multivitamin is not a magic pill that will instantly improve your health. It is simply a supplement that contains a combination of vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. These vitamins and minerals can be found in a variety of foods, and a well-balanced diet should provide all of the nutrients that your body needs.

What Makes Up A Well-Balanced Diet?

A balanced diet might look different to different people, but in general, it includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all food groups in the right proportions, while still allowing for some room for less healthy options in moderation. This includes a mix of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and being mindful of portion sizes and limiting ultra-processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats.

Who May Benefit From a Multivitamin?

Many people do not eat a well-balanced diet, and may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. In these cases, a multivitamin can help to fill in any gaps in your diet and ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs. For example, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may be at risk for deficiencies in certain B vitamins and iron. A multivitamin can help to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs. However, if you are truly deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral (as shown by lab testing), this is where individual supplementation may be necessary.

Following a restricted diet such as keto, gluten-free, paleo, or whole30 can put people at risk for deficiencies due to the elimination of certain food groups. These diets can be lacking in essential nutrients if not planned properly, and it is important to consider alternative sources of those nutrients. However, with careful dietary planning and choosing less restrictive versions of the same diet, it may be possible to avoid deficiencies without the need for a multivitamin supplement.

Another group of people who may benefit from taking a multivitamin are those with poor appetite related to a condition or disease. Some conditions, such as cancer, can cause a loss of appetite, making it difficult for people to consume enough food to meet their nutritional needs. In these cases, a multivitamin can help to ensure that the body is getting essential vitamins and minerals while they are not able to eat a well-balanced diet.

If you are an older adult, you may also benefit from taking a multivitamin. As we age, our body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals decreases, making it more difficult to get the nutrients we need from food. On top of that, some older adults experience a lower appetite and naturally start eating less food. A multivitamin can help to fill in the gaps.

Other groups of people who may benefit from a supplement are those planning a pregnancy or already pregnant, someone that has undergone bariatric surgery, and someone with food allergies/intolerances following a clinically prescribed diet.

Importance of a Well Balanced diet

It’s important to remember that a multivitamin is not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is essential for good health. The combination of different vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in food work together to provide optimal health benefits that cannot be replaced by any pill. It’s also worth noting that The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has determined that there is not enough evidence to determine the potential benefits and risks of taking multivitamin supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Bottom Line

Whether or not you need a multivitamin will depend on your individual dietary and health needs. If you are eating a well-balanced diet, you probably don’t need a multivitamin. However, if you are at risk for deficiencies due to your diet or lifestyle, a multivitamin can help to fill in any gaps in your nutrition. It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine if a multivitamin is right for you.

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