Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry. There are loads of ads everywhere aiming to make you believe that you need multivitamins to complete your healthy diet and lifestyle. However, for the most part, multivitamins are completely unnecessary. By eating a balanced diet from each of the four food groups each day, most vitamin and mineral needs for healthy adults can be easily met.
In fact, some multivitamins contain vitamins and minerals in dangerously high amounts. There seems to be a public perception that, with things deemed “healthy” like vitamins and minerals, more is better. However, Health Canada has Tolerable Upper Limits (ULs) set for most vitamins and minerals, at a level where adverse health effects have been observed. Multivitamins sometimes contain synthetic forms of essential compounds in levels above the UL, increasing the likelihood of toxicity. The ULs aren’t marked on the label, so unless you make the effort to search for them, you may never know that your supplement can be dangerous.
Also, there is little regulation about what claims can be made on supplement labels. Some single-nutrient bottles have claims like “Immune system booster,” which are based off low-quality studies conducted by the manufacturer. There’s also little research on drug-nutrient interactions in relation to nutritional supplements, so taking other drugs with multivitamins may be very dangerous.
Nutritional supplements are also extremely expensive. Take One A Day VitaCraves Adult Gummy Multivitamins, for example. Right now, they’re on sale on Amazon for $55.94 for four bottles of 50 gummies. Since you need to take two One A Day Multivitamins a day (the irony of which just absolutely kills me), you’d need to spend $204.18 per year just on the multivitamin itself. To put that into perspective, that’s two pairs of Lululemon Wunder Unders, three pairs of Nike runners if you get a good deal, or 119 kilograms of bananas. This money could go toward buying actual food containing all the nutrients in the multivitamin, or some new workout gear.
While most supplements on the market are unnecessary, it might be a good idea to take a few individual vitamins. Keep in mind that these recommendations are for healthy, non-pregnant, omnivorous adults. There aren’t a lot of foods that immediately provide vitamin D, so if you’re not the milk-drinking type, a vitamin D supplement could help. Health Canada recommends a dose of 600 IU (International Units) or 0.15 milligrams. Also, it helps for women of childbearing ages to take a folic acid (synthetic vitamin B9) supplement, which can help them better prepare for a healthy pregnancy. A daily dose of 0.4 milligrams should suffice for most women according to Health Canada. If you’re not sure of what to take for your own dietary conditions, talk to a dietitian before throwing loads of money into dietary supplements.
So, don’t waste your money on multivitamins. Most people can easily get all the nutrients they need from a healthy diet, and if you exceed the recommended amount on the bottle, you can put yourself at risk for nutrient toxicities, where the tissue that stores the particular vitamin is harmed. Other than a couple vitamins that you may need to supplement your diet in certain situations, save your money and live a healthy lifestyle instead. Supplements are often seen to be taken by people who work out and eat healthy, but aren’t actually as necessary as you think. Michael Pollan, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, put it perfectly: “Be the kind of person who takes supplements — then skip the supplements.”