Do Multivitamins Work as Advertised?

Did you know that when it comes to supplements in general, multivitamins and multiminerals are the most popular? In fact, over the past several decades, their popularity has exploded.

There are some people who believe that multivitamins offer a variety of health benefits, including compensating for poor eating habits, improving overall health, and reducing risk of developing chronic diseases. In this article, we will take a closer look at the scientific evidence behind multivitamins.

What Exactly are Multivitamins?

A multivitamin is a supplement that contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, and sometimes other ingredients. Since there’s really no industry standard, the nutrient composition varies from one brand or product to the next. Multivitamins are often referred to as vitamins, multiples, or multis and can be found in several different forms, including liquids, tablets, powders, gummies, and capsules.

In most cases, a multivitamin should be taken 1-2 times daily- but each will have its own instructions on the label. Take the time to read the instructions and follow them. If not, you may end up getting too much or not enough of a particular ingredient.

You can find multivitamins in your local supermarket or pharmacy, at large discount stores, and even online.

Section Summary

A multivitamin is a dietary supplement that contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and can be found in various forms. Choose the one that meets your personal needs and goals- and choose the form that is most convenient for you.

Common Ingredients in Multivitamins

Did you know that there are 13 vitamins and 15 minerals that are critical to your overall health? They are responsible for a variety of functions, including keeping nerves and organs functioning, producing enzymes and hormones, and improving your immunity. Your body also needs them for growth, regulation of bodily processes, maintenance, and even reproduction.

Multivitamins typically offer these vitamins and minerals, but the amounts vary from one brand or product to the next. They will also often contain other ingredients, such as amino acids, fatty acids, and herbs.

Since dietary supplements are not as strictly regulated as prescription medications by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some of them may contain higher or lower levels of nutrients than are listed on the label. In addition, some ingredients have been proven to interact with prescription medications, so make sure that you discuss them with your physician prior to taking them.

Finally, it’s critical that you make sure to purchase your multivitamins from a reputable manufacturer. Some brands get nutrients from whole foods, while others make them synthetically. Be sure to take your time and do your research.

Section Summary

There’s more to multivitamins than just vitamins and minerals. Some of them also contain amino acids, fatty acids, and herbs. However, it’s important to note that there is no standard, so the amount and variety of nutrients vary from one brand or product to the next.

Can Multivitamins Prevent Heart Disease?

According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, heart disease is among the top 10 leading causes of death in the world. There are some people who believe multivitamins can prevent heart disease. However, research does not fully support this belief.

While there have been some studies that indicate a connection between multivitamins and a reduction in risk of heart attacks and death, other studies have shown no connection.

In fact, one study, the Physicians’ Health Study II, followed 14,000 middle-aged male physicians over a decade. Researchers reported that multivitamin use did not reduce risk of heart attacks, strokes, or mortality.

That being said, a more recent study indicated that among women, multivitamin use for 3+ years did lead to a reduction in risk of dying from heart disease.

Section Summary

Some people believe that multivitamin use reduces risk of heart disease. Research results are mixed: some research supports this belief, while other research refutes it. It does seem to reduce risk in females, but not in males.

Can Multivitamins Reduce Cancer Risk?

When it comes to the correlation between multivitamins and cancer risk, results are also mixed. There is some research indicating that multivitamins don’t have an effect at all on cancer risk, while other studies indicate that these supplements do reduce cancer risk.

In one review of 5 randomized controlled trials, it was found that multivitamins reduced cancer risk by 31% in men but didn’t do anything for women. These trials included a total of 47,289 individuals.

Two other studies, one involving only female participants and the other involving both male and female participants, indicated that long-term multivitamin use led to a reduction in colon cancer risk.

The Physicians’ Health Study II also noted that long-term use of multivitamins did reduce risk of cancer in males who had a history of cancer as well as those who had no history.

Section Summary

There is some research that indicates multivitamins reduce cancer risk, while others indicate that there is no connection between the two.

Other Health Benefits Associated with Multivitamin Use

Scientists have studied multivitamins for a variety of other purposes, including supporting brain function and eye health.

Multivitamins & Brain Function

There have been several small studies that have examined the effects of multivitamin use among specific populations. Some research indicates that, in older adults, these supplements do improve memory.

Research also indicates that multivitamins may have an effect on mood. Some studies have shown that nutrient deficiencies can lead to poor mood. Also, some studies indicate that nutritional supplements may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, some studies indicate that multivitamins may not have any effect at all on mood.

Multivitamins & Eye Health

One of the primary causes of blindness around the world is age-related macular degeneration. One study indicated that taking vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties may slow the progression of this condition- and possibly prevent it.

Additionally, some research indicates that multivitamins may also reduce risk of developing another common eye condition, cataracts.

Section Summary

Research indicates that multivitamins can help improve mood and memory. Additionally, vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties may slow the progression of and potentially prevent conditions that cause blindness.

Can Multivitamins be Harmful?

When taking dietary supplements, including multivitamins, dosage is a critical factor to keep in mind. While high doses of some vitamins and minerals are fine for some people, they can be harmful in some cases.

The suitable dosage depends a lot on the solubility of the vitamin, which can be categorized into 2 groups:


If a vitamin is water-soluble, excess amounts will be flushed out via your urine.


If a vitamin is fat-soluble, your body can’t get rid of these as easily, so excess amounts may settle in your liver.

It’s important to note that women who are pregnant need to be careful with vitamin A, as research indicates excessive amounts could lead to congenital disabilities.

Excessive amounts of vitamin D may lead to vitamin D toxicity. However, this is rare and not likely to be caused by multivitamin use. On the other hand, vitamin A toxicity is not as rare.

That being said, if your diet includes nutrient-dense foods and you take multivitamins, you may end up exceeding the recommended daily intake of several nutrients. If you are a smoker, you should avoid taking multivitamins with high amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene, as these could elevate your risk of lung cancer.

Additionally, it’s important to note that high levels of minerals such as iron may lead to digestive upset, fainting, constipation, or vomiting. It may also reduce your body’s ability to absorb zinc. Men need to pay close attention to their iron intake, as they store more than women do.

If you have been diagnosed with hemochromatosis, you need to avoid consuming high levels of iron. This is a condition that can cause toxic levels of iron and could lead to heart disease, liver cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver. Individuals who have been diagnosed with this condition should not use vitamin C supplements.

Another common risk associated with multivitamins is the manufacturing processes. An unreputable company may engage in faulty manufacturing, which can cause multivitamins to harbor higher amounts of nutrients than they should.

Section Summary

High amounts of some nutrients can have detrimental effects on your health. These effects are more likely to occur if you are using a high-potency multivitamin along with a nutrient-dense diet.

Should You Take Multivitamins?

While it’s true that multivitamins can be beneficial, it’s important to note that they are not right for everyone- and may even harm some populations. However, there are certain groups that may benefit from supplementing with multivitamins, such as:

  • Older adults
  • Vegans
  • Vegetarians

Some other groups that may benefit from multivitamin use include those who have undergone weight loss surgery, who are on low-calorie diets, or who are not getting adequate nutrients from food.

Section Summary

Some groups benefit from multivitamin use more than others. These groups include older adults, vegans, and vegetarians, as well as those who are not getting the nutrients they need through their diet.


Contrary to popular belief, multivitamins are not a ticket to perfect health. The evidence that they do improve health is not consistent- some studies say yes, some say no. Additionally, there are some studies that indicate multivitamins could do more harm than good.

If you are deficient in certain nutrients, you should supplement with that particular one. A multivitamin has a variety of nutrients, some of which you may not need. Before you start taking any supplements, it’s best to consult with your physician to determine your needs.

Finally, multivitamins should never be used in lieu of a proper diet. The best way to ensure long-term health is to consume a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh, whole foods.

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