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What to look for in a multivitamin

Medically reviewed on May 13, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Daily exercise, a balanced diet, a consistent sleep schedule—prioritizing your health is a lifelong goal that’s supported by everyday decisions. One of those daily, health-focused decisions can be taking a multivitamin.

Do you know what to look for in a multivitamin? We’ll show you exactly what you’ll need so you can find the best multivitamin for you.

While there may be a lot to unpack—from the benefits of multivitamins to the criteria for choosing the right one for you—we’ll keep it simple. Read on to explore the chewables, capsules, and tablet options designed to maximize wellness. (Note that you can now shop Everlywell Vitamins and Supplements here.)

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What are the benefits of multivitamins?

Why should you take a multivitamin? No matter your age, you need vitamins—13 that are considered essential. Also known as micronutrients, vitamins are naturally occurring substances required for growth and development. Every essential vitamin contributes to a variety of bodily functions, from cell division to regulating metabolism.

The 13 essential vitamins include [1]:

  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folate)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Depending on the vitamin under consideration and dietary patterns, it may be difficult to fulfill all of your daily vitamin needs from diet alone. That’s where multivitamins come in.

Multivitamins are a simple way to help ensure that you receive an adequate daily dose of vitamins every day.

According to recent data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than 50 percent of adults over the age of 20 take dietary supplements, including multivitamins [2]. For many, they’re a way of supplementing dietary nutrition and protecting against vitamin deficiencies.

What should be in a multivitamin?

The benefits of multivitamins may be clear, but determining the right multivitamin supplement can take a bit more work. With thousands of multivitamins on the market today, the choice has never been more difficult for consumers—or more important.

Luckily, we’ve got answers. Explore the following criteria for a quality multivitamin.

Full-spectrum coverage and correct daily values

As mentioned, there are more than a dozen different vitamins necessary for your body to function properly. That means a multivitamin should cover all the bases. A quality supplement will contain every daily vitamin in amounts that coincide with the recommended daily value (DV).

Check for the following information on the label of multivitamin supplements:

  • 100 percent daily value – The percent daily value (%DV) refers to the percentage amount of any ingredient in a single serving [3]. When it comes to multivitamins, you can expect to see most vitamins listed as “100% DV” on the nutrition facts panel—or even in greater percentages. While every individual vitamin has its own recommended daily value, the percentage should hover around 100 to provide adequate benefit.
  • Additional mineral content – Many multivitamins contain minerals, though you shouldn’t expect to find the entirety of your daily recommended value in a single supplement. Magnesium, iron, and calcium may only appear in low amounts in standard multivitamins, as a daily dose can’t easily fit into a single capsule or tablet.

Remember: you can have too much of a good thing. Consuming more than the daily recommended value of some vitamins can pose a health risk, or toxicity, for some. Vitamin A, vitamin D, and iron can be dangerous or toxic if consumed at too high a level [4].

To avoid any potential adverse reactions, don’t forget to consult with a medical provider if you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Any major change in health or lifestyle deserves a discussion with a qualified expert to ensure safety.

Demographic-specific formulas

While vitamins are essential for everyone, the amount and concentration of certain vitamins may change depending on age, sex, or various health factors. To determine if a multivitamin is right for you, consider seeking out supplements designed for your specific needs.

Special factors and formulas for multivitamins may include:

  • Multivitamins for those ages 50 and older – Specialized multivitamins for older individuals often contain increased levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B3, and vitamin B12. These formulas may help lower the risk of developing osteoporosis, arthritis, and/or other conditions [5].
  • Multivitamins for pregnancy – Pregnant individuals or those who may become pregnant are typically recommended a daily multivitamin in the form of a prenatal vitamin. Healthcare providers and organizations recommend a multivitamin supplement that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, a vitamin shown to reduce the potential of various birth defects and complications [6].
  • Multivitamins for children – Developing brains and bodies can benefit from daily supplements. The recommended daily allowance of various vitamins may be higher for children, and kid-friendly supplements can help ensure a child receives all the micronutrients they need.
  • Multivitamins for athletes – If you’re interested in fitness or are looking to improve your workout, you might consider a daily multivitamin designed for athletic performance. Remember, supplements can’t substitute for a quality diet, but a multivitamin may help support overall wellness.
  • Multivitamins for chronic health issues – Multivitamins are not designed to treat chronic health issues. That said, if you suffer from vitamin deficiencies caused by illness or digestive absorption issues, a multivitamin may help replace missing micronutrients from the diet.
  • Multivitamins for restrictive diets – Vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians may require a multivitamin to provide the vitamins that cannot be found in their diets in adequate quantities. Those with sensitive palates or without access to certain foods may also seek out a multivitamin to fill in the nutritional gaps.

After you’ve determined if a multivitamin fits your specific needs, you may wonder when the best time is to take multivitamins. A general rule of thumb is to take multivitamins with food, as it is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Certifications and authorizations

In the United States, foods and prescription medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a federal agency that has existed since the 1930s [7]. However, the FDA is not authorized to review or certify vitamin supplements before they’re sold.

That being said, vitamin manufacturers are legally obligated to ensure their products are safe for human consumption. They’re also required to notify the FDA if they intend to introduce a new ingredient in their product. The FDA will review all new ingredients for safety purposes, and if any aspect of a multivitamin is found to pose a health risk, the product will be pulled from the shelves to undergo further review.

While the FDA cannot accurately assess any claims of effectiveness, there are several independent organizations tasked with investigating various supplements.

You might consider exploring the following organizations when researching a multivitamin:

  • NSF International – A global organization specializing in health standards and certification programs, NSF employs scientists and public health experts to certify products for consumers, manufacturers, and retailers. They perform toxicology reports and label analyses to certify various supplements, including multivitamins [8].
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia – With over 200 years of experience in the field of science and medicine, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) has worked as a global nonprofit to ensure the safety and credibility of various products. Today, their Dietary Supplement Verification Program audits supplements to ensure their safety and label compliance.
  • Dietary Supplement Label Database – If you’re unsure about a multivitamin label, you can use the federally regulated Dietary Supplement Label Database created by the National Institute of Health [9]. This simple search function can offer detailed information about the history and current ingredients of various supplements. It’s an excellent resource to provide transparency for consumers.

The regulation of multivitamins may be less strict than standard medications, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely in the dark. Use the resources available to you and consider consulting with a medical provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Vitamins and Supplements with Everlywell

To find the best vitamins and supplements for your health needs, consult your healthcare provider. Equipped with the right information, they can point you towards the specific nutrients that your body might need. Then, consider trying a monthly Everlywell subscription for the nutrient(s) of your choice, including:

Everlywell Vitamins & Supplements are here! Meet the new nutritional essentials for a healthier you

Multivitamin benefits: key points to know

Do multivitamins give you energy?

When is the best time to take multivitamins?

Why take a multivitamin?


References

1. Vitamins. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

2. Dietary Supplement Use Among Adults: United States, 2017–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

3. Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

4. What You Need to Know about Dietary Supplements. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

5. Dietary Supplements for Older Adults. National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

6. Key Findings: Daily Multivitamin Use among Women of Reproductive Age Declines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

7. FDA History. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

8. About NSF. NSF. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

9. Dietary Supplement Label Database. National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed May 13, 2022.

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