6 pros and cons of taking a daily multivitamin, according to doctors

Supplements are a booming business in Americaone that has accumulated over $35 billion by 2022 according to some estimates. However, it’s also an unregulated business where it’s all too common to see exaggerated endorsements and misleading ads. Many people, eager to improve their health by taking supplements or multivitamins, are understandably confused by conflicting claims about their use. If you’ve ever debated whether a multivitamin might be of any benefit to you, it can be hard to cut through the noise.

Weighing the pros and cons with your eyes wide open to potential risks and benefits is one way to make the best decision for your health (doing this with your doctor’s help is even better). Ready to settle the debate once and for all? Here are the things to consider when choosing whether a daily multivitamin is right for you, according to doctors and other health professionals.

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While there’s broad agreement among doctors that it’s best to get most of your nutrients through a healthy, varied diet, some experts say that taking a multivitamin can help you cover your nutritional bases.

“I like to think of taking a multivitamin as an insurance policy. A large portion of Americans don’t meet their daily micronutrient needs,” he says. Claire Rifkin, MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Claire Rifkin Nutrition. “Supplementing with a multivitamin can be a great way to make sure you’re meeting your daily needs.”

Most pharmacists seem to agree. A 2019 survey of 639 pharmacists found that 78 percent reported recommending vitamins and minerals to their patients. Among those recommending vitamins, 91% reported recommending multivitamins, making them the most recommended vitamin product.

Nurse about to take a blood sample from a young patient

Although research suggests multivitamins are more recommended than any single vitamin or mineral, many experts say it’s far better to identify particular deficiencies and target them through diet and strategic supplementation. Your doctor can help you determine if you have these nutritional gaps.

“Before recommending supplements or medications to my clients, I consider their family health history, personal medical history, lifestyle habits, and an in-depth review of their biomarkers through blood tests that will specify vitamin deficiencies and minerals”. Florence CommitteeMD, founder of the Committee Center for Precision Medicine & Healthy Longevity, explains Better Life

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pregnant woman sitting and consulting doctor
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Some people have greater nutritional needs than others or are more likely to have vitamin or mineral deficiencies. The elderly, pregnant women, and those with deficiencies, restrictive diets, or absorption problems may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin.

However, it’s important to note that groups are often considered more vulnerable, meaning it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting any new regimen.

Close-up portrait of a man wearing a denim shirt taking a vitamin with a glass of water
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While a minority of people may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin, most are wasting their money, medical experts say.

“They don’t do anything for most people,” he says Jamie Martinez, PharmD, pharmacist and medical content creator. “We have long-term clinical data showing that multivitamins don’t work for most people unless you’re over 65 or have a specific absorption problem,” he shared in a recent TikTok post.

“We have good evidence that for the vast majority of people, taking multivitamins will not help you,” Pieter CohenMD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said Harvard Health Publishing. “Most people would be better off drinking a full glass of water and skipping the vitamin.”

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Close-up of a hand holding a supplement pill out of the bottle
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For most people, taking a daily multivitamin is unlikely to cause any harm. That’s good news, since a third of the American population reports taking them, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While it is possible to ingest megadoses of vitamins and minerals that are toxic to the body, the vast majority of vitamins that the body does not need or use will simply be filtered out by the kidneys and released in the urine.

“There’s very little harm we’ve found in taking multivitamins,” Mikhail VarshavskyMD, a physician and popular content creator who goes by the name “Dr. Mike” on social media, recently told the Rachael Ray Show. “They won’t hurt you.”

Elderly woman with a glass of water in one hand and a pill or vitamin in the other
shurkin_son / Shutterstock

However, just because the damage is unlikely doesn’t mean it’s unheard of. When you take a multivitamin, you run the risk of it interacting with other medications or supplements you are taking. It’s also possible to get too much of a particular vitamin or mineral if you’re already getting a lot of it through your diet.

“Multivitamins can interact with prescription medications and affect how they work,” warns Rifkin. “For example, vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners. It’s also possible for some people to experience unwanted side effects from a multivitamin that may not be dangerous, but may be uncomfortable,” she says.

HaVy Ngo-Hamilton, PharmD, a pharmacist, clinical consultant and pharmacy editor for BuzzRx, agrees that this can pose a danger to patients. She says Better Life which “could lead to undesirable adverse effects or even serious harm and hospitalization.”

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research and health agencies, but our content is not intended to replace professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you are taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

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