What Are The Benefits And Risks Of Taking Multivitamins?

Multivitamins are often defined as a supplement containing 3 or more micro-nutrients. These are dietary minerals which are necessary in small quantities for healthy physiological functions. Most micro-nutrients are needed in quantities of 100 mg per day or less. There are health benefits and risks of taking multivitamins that you should get familiar with before supplementing your diet with them. If taken in conservative dosages to supplement a balanced diet, multivitamins can be healthy and have great benefits. If they are taken in large amounts and mixed with other supplements and pharmaceutical drugs there can be high risks involved.

If you are taking a multivitamin, you are like thousands of others all across America who probably depend on them for future health. The absolute best way to get the micro-nutrients that your body needs is through a balanced diet. When I say a balanced diet that means it includes multiple servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I think that it is important to also add lean protein, eggs, and yogurt to your diet as well. If you are eating healthy and wholesome every day, then a multivitamin may not be necessary.  In many cases we can’t get all the nutrients we need through our diet. Even if you eat healthy things, the quality of food these days is never really guaranteed. Taking a simple multivitamin with relatively low dosages of micro-nutrients is like an insurance plan for those days that your diet may be lacking in some areas.

Multivitamins are regulated like any other dietary supplement, which is basically not at all. The FDA closely regulates food and pharmaceutical drugs, but because of the law it is very hard for them to regulate supplements. It is up to us as the consumer to do our own research and make sure we are taking pure multivitamins. Always choose a supplement that meets purity standards. One purity standard is by the U.S Pharmacopoeia which is a non-profit that makes sure everything on the nutrition label is in the bottle, and is safe.

Taking a multivitamin can get dangerous if you start taking large doses. Just because micro-nutrients and minerals are a good thing in small amounts does not mean they will be even better in larger amounts. It’s actually the opposite. Vitamins like A and D are stored in the fat because they are not water soluble and if you take large amounts it can get toxic very quickly because they are not easily flushed from the body. Vitamin B6 is water soluble but even taking that in large amounts for prolonged periods of time can cause nerve damage. Vitamin C in high dosages can cause diarrhea. The most common way to take high dosages of vitamins is when you start taking multiple pills, or taking a vitamin along with other supplements. You should never take more than the dosage recommendation on the labeling of any vitamins.

The real benefits of multivitamins come when you have a real deficiency in your diet, if you are a vegetarian, if you’re pregnant, or train extremely hard like an athlete. Vegetarians can really benefit from taking B12, D, Iron, and calcium. These are all found in dairy and meat products that are usually missing  from a vegetarian diet. If you are calcium and D deficient it can cause soft bones and osteoporosis. If you don’t get in the sun very much you might also want to think about taking a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium so just that deficiency can also weaken the bones. Pregnant women need prenatal multivitamins because of the extra life that they are nourishing. Athletes that train extremely hard need multivitamins to replace what they lose in sweat and energy expenditure.

If you are in any of those categories, or just have a deficient diet, it may be smart to take a multivitamin. Again, I would highly recommend trying to get all of your daily nourishment through a well balanced diet. Your body is designed to break down real food and get its nutrition from that source. Good food will always have the best results for your body. But if you do find it necessary to take multivitamins, hopefully this post about the little known benefits and risks of taking multivitamins helps you. Leave a comment about your own experiences or contact me if you have any questions. 

Adam Pegg About Adam Pegg

Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.