This article has been updated to meet my 2021 standards and recommendations. My maturity is the same, but my writing skillz are way more on point…
This question is THE question at the top of most wellness seeker’s minds, Multivitamins are both the foundation to most people’s supplement plans AND what I call the gateway supplement. This means it’s the first domino to fall, leading into a world of more complicated supplement regimens.
Just don’t be like some of my patients, who fill up their cereal bowls with vitamins, omegas, probiotics, and more.
Since the 50s we’ve been a multivitamin society, “filling in the gaps” in our diet with multivitamin pills. That’s a big part of the problem: there are persistent “beliefs” that cloud the reality: multivitamins aren’t what we think they are.
There are a few questions that I believe are more important than, “what kind of multivitamin do I need?”
Here they are:
- Do I need a multivitamin?
- Is this multivitamin being misrepresented by the manufacturer (or any of the many charlatans talking it up)?
- Am I already getting a “multivitamin” and not even know it?
- Do I really need a multivitamin customized for me based on my lifestyle?
Do I Need a Multivitamin?
Yes. You bet.
Multivitamins are one of my Vital Five supplements, the five supplements almost everyone would benefit from and are difficult to get from the diet. These are the first supplements to consider before any others. The Vital Five are the cornerstone of our supplement strategy.
In the past, I was very anti-multivitamin, being quite ranty and casting wide nets. I’ve calmed down a bit.
I believe we need to rely less on supplements and more on healthy lifestyle choices. In my Wellness Pyramid and in my one-on-one consultations, we discuss optimizing the Five Lifestyle Domains as foundational to our wellness.
So, food BEFORE multivitamins, in my eyes.
The big reason I was so “anti,” was because of how misrepresented multis are.
My main gripe with multis are they are widely misrepresented. “Your Vitamins are Lying to You” was a regular chant in the stores (and in our marketing).
First, we think multivitamins will make us healthier. That’s a BIG misrepresentation (or lie) we’ve been taught since the 1950s. This isn’t space food; these are just isolated vitamins and micronutrients in a pill—with typically just a couple dozen of the thousands of micronutrients we eat daily.
In numerous trials big and small conducted across the globe, multivitamins have been shown to make no difference on how often people get sick, get diseases, or how long someone will live.
We should take them under the assumption that, at best, they’ll ensure we are NEVER DEFICIENT in key micronutrients. Those deficiencies can lead to a number of problems, including diseases or even risk of death, yes. But there’s a difference between making sure you have minimum amounts and taking them thinking your Flintstone’s vitamin is adding 3 years onto your age.
The biggest misrepresentation is in the products themselves. My newer mantra is, “There is a gap between the science and academic discussion of supplements, and the garbage products most of us buy.” Or something like that…
Multivitamins have pictures of greens, fruits, and all manner of healthy stuff. They market themselves as whole-food, raw, natural, or whatever buzzword the thesaurus throws at the marketing team.
In reality, most products we buy are what I call HDSIMs: high dose, synthetic, isolated micronutrients.
If we’re using them to correct a deficiency, synthetic isolates are fine, but we can’t fool ourselves and think we can skip the asparagus.
Am I already getting a multivitamin?
Here’s a dirty supplement industry secret: everything’s a remix. That means there are 75,000+ products and only like 2,000 different active ingredients. Most products are practically the same thing, just in different ratios, amounts, and including different (but same) ingredients.
Many supplements contain a multivitamin’s worth of micronutrients, even if they’re not necessarily a multivitamin.
Think hair, skin, nail formulas on top of women’s health blends on top of your daily powdered shake on top of your multi.
That’s dangerous, and it’s often not even considered.
What Kind of Multivitamin Do I Need?
This answer is simple: you need a quality product made with only the ingredients that we need at doses that are reasonable and backed by science, using forms of the nutrients our body will most efficiently use.
Ok, so that’s the long version. Coenzyme Multi is the simple answer.
What we DON’T need are multis for every single lifestyle. Teens. Kids. Moms. Seniors. Hippies. Whomever.
Those products nail the multivitamin part, but then they drop the ball on the lifestyle part. They often contain low doses of poorly absorbable or ineffective herbs and other supplements that are marketed for each demographic.
It is far better (and more strategic) to only use supplements that excel at their purpose, and don’t try to be the Swiss Army knife of vitamins.
That means if you’re a mom, get mom supplements (not an all-in-one)… and on and on for all our unique lifestyles.
“Your Answers are Never Simple”
Yeah, I know. Something as simple as which multivitamin opens a can of worms of supplement misinformation, quality concerns, and potential danger.
That’s the world we live in, for now.
That’s why it’s CRUCIAL to talk with a true expert about YOU before you buy. Or, read all my stuff.
We’re here to help, and we’re happy to do so. Schedule a wellness consult, drop us a message here on our site, or email us. We’ll help you figure out the BEST option, and help you build a lifelong wellness plan with a supplement strategy at its core.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth