Why You Should Be Taking A Multivitamin

When it comes to your health, experts agree a multivitamin can be really worthwhile. Not only will the right formula help fill in any nutritional gaps, it can also protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up. Here, we asked one leading nutritionist and a pharmacist to explain more about the benefits of taking one, plus the top formulas to look out for.
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The Right Multivitamin Is Like An Insurance Policy

Even if eating well – whether it’s adding in more veggies or eating a cleaner diet – is something you try to do, experts agree food alone isn’t enough to provide all the nutrients your body needs. “Think of it this way – a multivitamin is like an insurance policy,” Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist, naturopath and founder of Artah, tells SL. “Think of it as an investment in the optimisation of your health and the prevention if infection. We know vitamins can’t replace a healthy diet, but sometimes they can be useful.” 

Rhian explains that in a perfect world, it’s completely possible to meet your dietary requirements from food, but in reality, things aren’t so clear cut. “There’s a multitude of factors, both in and out of your control, that influence your personal nutrient requirements. For example, factors out of your control include the quality and nutrient density of the food you eat – depleted soils, transportation of food, and whether something is fresh or processed all influence the nutrient make-up of food. Lifestyle factors also play a part – chronic stress, how much exercise you do, and medication also influence your needs. You also need to layer in your diet – are you a vegan or vegetarian? Do you eat too much meat? Not enough vegetables? Do you avoid carbs? There’s definitely a benefit to taking a good multivitamin – as long as it’s not used as a substitution for a healthy diet.”

Chances Are You Could Do With A Boost

While Rhian says if you’re an athlete, have a particular health condition, such as IBS or Chron’s, or are pregnant or post-natal, you should definitely be taking a multivitamin, chances are you could do with a boost, even if you don’t fall into these categories. “A multivitamin is absolutely imperative no matter how healthy you are or even how well you eat,” stresses Shabir Daya, pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health. “In fact, there are numerous studies that indicate deficiencies of many vitamins and minerals within the adult population. Notable examples include vitamin D3, vitamin K, vitamin B12 and magnesium. In most of these cases, research shows well over 60% of the adult population is deficient in all these nutrients, and in the case of vitamin K this may be as high as 90%.”

Some Formulas Are Better Than Others

If you’re shopping for a multivitamin, Rhian says there are several factors to bear in mind when choosing the right brand and product. “It goes without saying that a good multivitamin should contain all of the basic vitamins and minerals, but it should also be free from junk, fillers and allergens. Plus, steer clear of anything that claims to be a ‘one a day’ formula – to get the right amount of nutrients, you’ll need to look for a serving size of four to six capsules per day. 

After that, look at the form vitamins and minerals are in. For example, oxide forms of minerals (such as zinc and magnesium) are more poorly absorbed than others, and you want the active forms of B vitamins, such as folate instead of just ‘folic acid’. Also steer clear of anything with unnatural colourings.” Shabir also recommends looking out for multivitamins that are ‘food-state’, meaning they contain nutrients that are close to their structure in foods, boosting their bioavailability. “Remember the body gets its nutrients from food, so why not take a multi-nutrient that closely resembles, or is chemically identical, to that found in food,” he says. Wild Nutrition is renowned for its food-state formulas.

Stress, how much exercise you do, and what you eat – from meat to vegetables and carbs – all play a part in your need for a multivitamin.

If You’re Taking The Pill, Look For Vitamin B6

“While a decent multivitamin should contain a good all-round set of vitamins and minerals, there are also some good-to-haves,” adds Rhian. “For example, iodine and methylated B vitamins can help women in particular, while pre-menopausal and menopausal women should look out for a formula that contains a decent amount of blood sugar support, such as chromium or alpha-lipoid acid. The pill also depletes vitamin B6, and if you drink a lot of coffee, exercise heavily and often feel stressed, look for an increased magnesium content, too.” 

It’s Okay To Go Over Your RDA

When reading the back of a supplement bottle, it’s not unusual for a daily dose to contain more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of several vitamins and minerals – in fact, this number can often spiral into the thousands. “Whether this is good for you or not remains a huge topic of debate,” Rhian explains. “The RDA is set on the average nutrients required to maintain general health and prevent deficiency. They aren’t, however, set for optimal health and they can be quite limited in terms of age and gender differences. While mega dosing can also be an issue, there are several limitations with how the current guidelines are set.” 

Rhian gives the example of the pill, which depletes levels of vitamin B6. “To meet your requirements of B6 when on the pill, you need upwards of 1000% of the RDA.” Shabir, however, is more cautious of overly high RDAs. “If a supplement offers 5000% of the RDA, make sure you are reading the label carefully. The problem with mega strengths is that in many cases, when a vitamin is presented in a very high strength, it may compete with another vitamin for absorption, and that isn’t ideal.” 

The Delivery System Matters

When it comes to the type of formula, there’s benefit to taking capsules over tablets, says Rhian. “While you can pack higher doses into tablets, formulas in capsules are better absorbed by the body,” she says. “In terms of sprays, these are great for certain single nutrients, such as magnesium, but if it’s a multivitamin formula, check for added sweeteners, additives and dosages. Don’t be lured by gimmicky products – aside from magnesium, I haven’t come across any other vitamins or minerals that are absorbed in a spray more than you’d get from a good-quality oral supplement.”

You’ll Need To Stick With It 

If you were very deficient before taking a multivitamin, Rhian says you may well feel the changes within a few days or weeks. But for the best results, stick with it. “To really reap the benefits of a multivitamin, it should be taken in the long-term,” she says. “While you may not feel a change immediately, think of it as an investment in your health. Remember that suboptimal levels of specific vitamins and minerals can contribute to disease and even recovery from infection, so it pays to keep your levels topped up.”


Shop SL’s edit of the best multivitamins here…

For more information visit Artah.co and VictoriaHealth.com

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