The market is cluttered. The research is mixed. The clear answers are hard to come by – until now.
With the help of health expert and GP Dr Sara Kayat, we get to the real truth behind multivitamin supplements and how the right one can benefit you.
Are all multivitamins a waste of money?
Dr Sara: The research on multivitamins is mixed. Some studies have suggested that taking multivitamins can improve specific health outcomes, including reduction of the risk of congenital disabilities, supporting immune function and improving cognitive function in older adults. However, the effectiveness of multivitamins can depend on an individual's health status and their dietary habits. For some, a multivitamin can help fill the nutrient gaps in their diet and support overall health.
Does everyone need a multivitamin?
Dr Sara: Whilst supplementation shouldn't replace a healthy diet, those with busy lifestyles may not have time to plan and prepare nutrient-dense meals every day. In which case, they may benefit from taking a multivitamin as it’s a convenient way to ensure they receive a broad range of essential nutrients.
There are also some people who may also benefit from a multivitamin more than others. For example, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may have more difficulty getting enough of certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron – so a multivitamin can help fill these gaps. Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may also have increased nutritional needs, and a prenatal or postnatal multivitamin can help support the health of both the mother and baby.
WATCH: Dr Sara Answers Your Questions On Women's Health:
Why take a multivitamin? Will I actually feel different?
Dr Sara: Taking a multivitamin that addresses any nutrient deficiency can help support your overall health and wellbeing. If you are a deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, taking a multivitamin may help replenish your energy levels, improve immunity and mood. For example, vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and C help your immune function better. The B vitamins and magnesium are important for brain function and improving your mental clarity and mood. And an appropriate intake of certain vitamins and minerals can work to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis and even certain types of cancers. A multivitamin that provides the right nutrients can therefore improve your overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
What’s wrong with the multivitamin market?
One of the problems with multivitamins on the market currently is that they may contain unnecessary or ineffective ingredients that don't align with the recommended daily allowances or evidence-based dosages. Some may even contain harmful ingredients or contaminants like heavy metals or synthetic fills. As the supplement industry is not regulated like the medical industry, there needs to be more regulation around the quality and purity of the ingredients. Some multivitamins may contain additional ingredients from which they claim or have different potencies and dosages from batch to batch. Whilst the law in the UK does not allow these companies to make any medical claims that would imply that they could cure, treat or improve any medical conditions, some of the marketing can be exaggerated or misleading. This can mean that it can make it difficult for consumers to decide which multivitamins to take and which are safe and effective.