What Is a Multivitamin?

A multivitamin is a combination of vitamins and sometimes minerals. These ingredients are required for several of the body’s vital functions and help maintain overall health. They are available in tablets, capsules, pastilles, powders and liquids. Multivitamins are typically taken once or twice daily. The amounts of vitamins and minerals found in multivitamins are generally adapted to correlate with what is believed to result in optimal health effects in large population groups. However, these standard doses may not be appropriate for individuals with certain medical conditions or taking specific medications.

Despite their popularity, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of multivitamins. In fact, one 2021 review of 84 vitamin and mineral supplement trials showed that multivitamins don’t lower the risk of heart disease or cancer, and they may actually increase risk in some cases.

The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through a balanced diet, and it’s important to talk with a registered dietitian if you have questions about your eating habits. A RD can also work with you to create a meal plan that’s right for you.

If your dietary intake isn’t where it should be, taking a multivitamin can help fill in the gaps. For example, a multivitamin can help ensure that you’re getting enough of the B vitamins to support energy levels and cognitive function, and it can provide the extra zinc you might need for a healthy immune system.

Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate multivitamins, so it’s important to look for a brand with the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) label on it to make sure that you’re purchasing a high-quality product. If you’re taking any other dietary supplements, medications or have a health condition, tell your doctor and pharmacist before starting a new multivitamin. This will allow them to help you avoid any potential interactions between the products.

Some flavored multivitamins contain the artificial sweetener aspartame, which can cause serious health problems if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder. Also, some iron-containing multivitamins can cause liver damage in men and postmenopausal women, so it’s important to select a formula that doesn’t contain a lot of iron. It’s also helpful to eat iron-rich foods such as chicken, small amounts of red meat, dark leafy greens and fortified grains instead.