What’s In Your Multivitamin?

Do you need a multivitamin

What Is A Multivitamin?

A multivitamin is a combination of both minerals and vitamins that are essential for proper functioning of the body that are not received in adequate amounts in the diet and as such have to be supplemented. Multivitamins may be recommended for several reasons some of which include; if there are certain health conditions, if one is practicing any form of vegetarian or vegan diet or if an individual is in a special class namely is pregnant or breastfeeding. [1][2][3]

Vitamins and minerals play an integral role in many biological processes in the body therefore it is of utmost importance that adequate amounts of these essential nutrients are obtained either from one’s diet and or via supplements in the form of multivitamins. It should be noted that certain combination of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid are responsible for proper neurological function as well as cardiovascular function [3]. Other combinations enable proper liver function, vision, bladder and kidney function as well as muscle and bone health. Multivitamins are most commonly utilized in the treatment of certain vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy, pellagra, rickets, vitamin B12 deficiency, vitamin E deficiency and Xerophthalmia. [2]

Source Of Multivitamin

In their natural forms vitamins and minerals may be obtained from various fruits, vegetables and meat products. Vitamins such as vitamin A and C may be obtained from carrots and citrus fruits respectively while minerals such as calcium and iron may be obtained from milk products and a variety of peas and beans respectively. In the supplemental form, multivitamins generally contain all the essential vitamins and minerals which are inclusive of vitamins A, C, E, K, B vitamins, iron, calcium and magnesium [3]. These multivitamins may be in the form of tablets, pills, energy bars, liquids and powders and may be of a specific formulation geared at a particular group of individuals, namely individuals over the age of 65 with various health concerns or women who are breastfeeding. [4]

Interesting Facts About Multivitamins [2][5]

  • Multivitamins have been available since the 1940s.
  • Multivitamins’ sale account for at least one sixth of all supplement sales.
  • Females generally take multivitamins more than males with the percentage of females over 18 years taking multivitamins being 48 percentage and that for males is 43 percentage.


Multivitamins have many benefits chief among these is their functionality in the treatment of vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy, pellagra, rickets, Xerophthalmia, Wernicke encephalopathy, folate deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency.

Scurvy is a disease caused by insufficient intake of vitamin C in one’s diet, it is characterized by the presence of swollen, bleeding gums, one’s teeth becoming loose, fatigue, joint pain, depression, small red or purple spots on the skin and delayed healing of cuts and wounds. Scurvy may cause anemia and may also be fatal if left untreated. Multivitamins tend to contain adequate amounts of vitamin C to satisfy the recommended daily allowance and as such is very effective in supplementing one’s diet in order to treat and prevent this disease. [6]

Pellagra is another vitamin deficiency disease caused by a lack of niacin, vitamin B3, which is characterized by dementia, diarrhea and dermatitis. Some dementia symptoms include depression, headaches, mood swings, anxiety and delusions. Dermatitis is usually manifested as rashes on the face, lips, feet or hands or may form around the neck also known as Casal necklace. Other dermatitis symptoms include red, itchy irritated skin, scabby, peeling encrusted skin and or discolored skin. Multivitamins play a vital role in supplying adequate vitamin B3 to aid in the treatment of this condition. It should be noted that if left untreated this condition may be fatal. [7]

Rickets is caused from a deficiency of vitamin D which in turn affects the body’s ability to absorb calcium and or phosphate. Symptoms of rickets include weak, soft bones and or skeletal deformities, muscle cramps, joint pains, problems with teeth structure and formation. Skeletal deformities may include abnormally shaped skull, bowlegs, ridges or bumps in the rib cage, curved spine or a protruding breastbone. This condition results in the depletion of other very important vitamins and minerals therefore the use of multivitamins is usually recommended to aid in correcting this problem. [8]

Xerophthalmia is a condition caused by the lack of vitamin A in one’s diet and it results in severe dryness of the cornea and cause irreparable damage to the cornea which may ultimately lead to night blindness. Other symptoms of this condition include ulcers, lesions of the cornea and eventually liquefying of the cornea. Treatment of this condition is done with immediate supplementation with vitamin A which is the most cost effective way of managing this disease. [9]

Wernicke encephalopathy results from a deficiency of thiamin, vitamin B1, which is characterized by balance and movement challenges, confusion, eye problems, drowsiness, lethargy and arrhythmia. Treatment is usually done with supplementing with thiamin on a daily basis for several months. [10]

Another condition in which multivitamins have been utilized is in the treatment folate deficiency. Folate or vitamin B9 plays a critical role in DNA and RNA synthesis as well as red blood cell formation. A deficiency in this vitamin results in serious complications especially in pregnant women and individuals suffering from other diseases. Symptoms of folate deficiency include mouth sores, fatigue, swelling of the tongue, pale skin, shortness of breath and irritability. The US FDA also recommends that for women who are in their first trimester a daily folic acid supplement should be taken so as to ensure healthy development of the fetus. [11]

Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is also essential for proper neurological functions and is vital for DNA synthesis and production of red blood cells. This deficiency is characterized by jaundice in the eyes and skin, lethargy, nerve damage manifested in the form of sensations of pins and needles, difficulty walking, swollen red tongue, mouth ulcers, shortness of breath, dizziness, blurred vision and mood swings. Taking a multivitamin which contains this vitamin on a daily basis usually takes care of this deficiency. [12][13]

Other benefits of multivitamins are associated with individuals in various classes namely, the elderly – adults over the age of 65 years, athletes, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children 6 months to 5 years old, menopausal women and persons practicing some form of vegetarian lifestyle.

As one gets older their nutritional needs changes as some of the body’s biological processes slow down, one of which is the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This decrease in hydrochloric acid reduces the amount of food that is metabolized and in turn how much nutrients are absorbed. To compensate for this nutrient shortfall, it is recommended that elderly individuals take a daily dose of a multivitamin containing vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin C and coenzyme Q10 along with any other vitamins and minerals specific for their health and condition.

Individuals who have an active lifestyle or who are athletes need above average vitamins and minerals and as such should incorporate this in their diet by taking a suitable multivitamin. A multivitamin which contains vitamins C and E should be taken as this aids in repairing damaged tissues and reducing oxidative stress during vigorous exercise routines or activity.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding generally need additional nutrients in order to ensure the health of the developing fetus and avoid birth defects, it is recommended that this group supplement with a multivitamin containing folic acid, iron and vitamin D. [14]

Giving children aged 6 months to 5 years a multivitamin also proves beneficial as this group tend not to get adequate amounts of the essential vitamins and minerals needed at this stage. This may be as a result of children in this age group not wanting to eat certain foods which will supply the necessary vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins containing vitamins A, C and D will prove very beneficial preferably in the form of gummies to encourage consumption. [4]

Multivitamins also play a key role in supplementing the diets of women who are in the menopausal stage of life, as at this stage there is a reduction in the production of estrogen, the hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive cycle in females. This reduction in estrogen is directly related to the loss of bone mass and as such women in this stage of life are very susceptible to fractures and other diseases such as osteoporosis. Multivitamins containing calcium and vitamin D as well as the herb cohosh may prove very beneficial as it helps in relieving symptoms such as hot flashes. [2][14]

Vegetarians and any forms of diet that limit or exclude the consumption of meat and meat products will inevitably be low in the essential vitamin cobalamin. Supplementing with a daily multivitamin is an effective way of ensuring that an adequate amount of this very important vitamin is obtained. [2][4]

Is Multivitamin Bad For You?

Taking multivitamins at the recommended dosage for otherwise healthy individuals is beneficial and poses no adverse side effects however when taken along with foods already containing a high amount of vitamins, having too much of a good thing may result in health concerns related to an overdose of these vitamins. Persons who are taking other medications for the treatment of various conditions may have drug interactions if taken in conjunction with multivitamins. Care should be exercised when taking multivitamins containing vitamin E and aspirin or Coumadin as there is an increased risk of internal bleeding and stroke [15]. In addition, persons who are scheduled for surgery should avoid taking multivitamins before and after surgery as certain drug interaction with life threatening consequences may occur. It is noteworthy to mention that persons who are avid smokers should avoid taking multivitamins containing beta-carotene or vitamin A as studies have shown that these nutrients increases the risk of lung cancer in this particular group of individuals by as much as 28 percent. [5]

Should You Add Multivitamins To You Diet?

Incorporating a multivitamin into one’s diet may be advantageous depending on an individual’s lifestyle and current health status as there are many benefits associated with taking these essential vitamins and minerals which may not be obtained from foods consumed on a daily basis depending on one’s diet. However, it is of utmost importance that you consult your healthcare provider prior to taking these multivitamins so as to be properly guided on the best course of action as each person’s nutritional requirements are different and should therefore be assessed by a trained professional who is familiar with their health history and current health situation. Once the proper assessment and monitoring is done, taking a multivitamin may boost one’s health and aid in warding off certain diseases.


  1. https://www.metagenics.com/multivitamins
  2. https://draxe.com/multivitamin/
  3. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm118079.htm
  4. https://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Love-Summer/why-you-should-consider-taking-a-multivitamin-and-mineral-supplement-20160606
  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/MVMS-HealthProfessional/
  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/pellagra#outlook
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/rickets
  9. https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/xerophthalmia#treatment
  10. https://www.webmd.com/brain/wernicke-korsakoff-syndrome-facts#1
  11. https://www.healthline.com/health/folate-deficiency#prevention
  12. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-b12-deficiency-symptoms
  13. https://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-b12-deficiency-symptoms-causes#2
  14. https://www.simplysupplements.co.uk/healthylife/supplements/benefits-of-multivitamins
  15. https://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/UsingDietarySupplements/ucm110493.htm


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Simone Hemmings is a technical content writer with a background in Food Chemistry and manufacturing. In addition to being a technical writer she has offered her expertise to various companies in the area of food safety certification. As such she has been exposed to different regulations and legislations from US FDA, Codex Alimentus (HACCP), and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), among others. From the wealth of knowledge gained both from this exposure to these standards, she is confident that sharing this knowledge will undoubtedly assist others in making conscious and well-informed decisions about their nutritional health and well-being.


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