Kari E. Cooper, PharmD
PMH Director of Pharmacy
The multivitamin market has expanded significantly in recent years and it is now estimated that more than 33 percent of Americans take a daily multivitamin. As popular as these supplements have become, the question still arises: Are multivitamins for everyone?
Multivitamins are usually taken once daily to provide a person with 100 percent or more of recommended daily values (DV%) of many vitamins and minerals. There are many multivitamins available and they are often directed at a specific population – men, women, seniors, teens, etc.
It is important to understand that taking a multivitamin will rarely cause harm, but sometimes it will also not have much benefit.
Most of the recommended daily vitamins and minerals can be obtained by eating a healthy diet. It doesn’t have to be a perfect diet comprised entirely of fruits and vegetables, but just a well-balanced diet. Many processed foods like bread and cereal are now fortified with vitamins and minerals. People who eat highly restricted diets like gluten-free or vegan often require vitamin supplementation because eliminating food groups also eliminates key recommended vitamins and minerals.
There can be safety risks with adding a daily vitamin supplement.
Multivitamins can interact with prescription medications. Patients taking medication known commonly as “blood thinners” should always talk to a physician before taking a multivitamin or any other supplement because certain vitamin components could inhibit the effect of their medication.
Multivitamins can be a safe and effective supplement. It is recommended to discuss any vitamin supplement with a Primary Care Physician before adding it to a daily regimen. Some multivitamins will be prescribed by a physician like prenatal vitamins for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When choosing a multivitamin it is important to remember that more is not necessarily better. Look for a product that contains only up to 100 percent of the recommended daily values and one that has been stamped with approval from the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia). The USP stamp means the supplement has passed additional quality, potency and purity testing. The local pharmacist can be a great resource to help narrow down the search for the optimal multivitamin.
Make sure to add a new multivitamin to your medication list and to report any vitamin or mineral supplement when asked for your current medications. Keeping an updated written list of all daily medications will allow physicians and hospitals to provide the best possible care in the event that you are unable to answer questions. Even if the medication does not require a prescription, it is still important to write down and to report.