Ideally, we want to get our essential nutrients from the food we eat. When that isn’t happening, though, taking a daily multivitamin seems like a popular go-to solution.
But are multivitamins worth your money? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Marie Spano, an M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., and sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks, Braves, and Falcons, recommends them to her athlete clients.
“It’s hard to get enough of certain nutrients from food—vitamin D and copper are great examples,” she told us. “If you are cutting calories—and therefore eating less food—you are likely to fall short on certain nutrients. If you are on a diet that cuts out some food groups, you are also likely to fall short.”
She adds: “Shortfall nutrients, those many aren’t getting enough of from food include vitamins A, D, E, C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, potassium and in specific populations, iron.”
While a Business Insider report from July recommended the use of Vitamin D and zinc, it implored people to not plop down money for multivitamins, advising that they could get all the nutrients they need with a balanced diet. The report also cited an American Heart Association journal study, which concluded through analysis that “MVM (multivitamin/mineral) supplementation does not improve cardiovascular outcomes in the general population.”
John Hopkins Medicine research additionally concluded that: “Multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking) or an early death. They also noted that in prior studies, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements appear to be harmful, especially at high doses.”
Within the same study, Larry Appel, an M.D. and director of the John Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, implored people to look elsewhere.
“Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits — eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat,” he said.
The vitamin and supplement business is a whopping $37 billion industry, so research pointing to multivitamins’ lack of potency is downright stunning. But perhaps pinpointing the specific vitamins you do need, and seeing what you can get from a balanced diet, is the best game plan.