Multivitamins or single supplements? We lay out the pros and cons

Multivitamins or single supplements? We lay out the pros and cons



With the plethora of dietary supplements on the market, you may have wondered whether it’s better to take a multivitamin or individual vitamins. In this blog, we compare the pros and cons of mulvitamins and single nutrients so that you can choose the best supplements for your health needs.

A multivitamin is a single pill that contains a combination of different vitamins and minerals, while individual or single vitamins are pills that only contain a specific nutrient. Our micronutrient needs vary based on age, gender, amount of physical activity, and other factors.

If you’re eating a well-balanced diet, the chances are that you are getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy. There are, of course, certain groups who would need a dietary supplement such as pregnant women, the elderly, those with malabsorption issues, and those with restricted diets, amongst others. Multivitamins therefore provide baseline nutritional support, and supplement manufacturers offer targeted multivitamin formulations for various specific subpopulations. Writing for Forbes, nutrition scientist, Tim Wallace said, “Taking a daily multivitamin is a cost-effective way to insure against hidden micronutrient insufficiencies that can sap your immunity, health and long-term vitality.”

However, if you have a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency, or have an increased need due to lifestyle or health factors, then individual vitamin and mineral supplements may be more suited than a one-size-fits-all multivitamin. Both options have their pros and cons, depending on your needs.

Pros Cons
MULTIVITAMINS
  • It can help you meet basic nutrient requirements.
  • You can choose a formulation based on your age, sex, and pregnancy status.
  • It’s simple and convenient, as there is no keeping track of individual supplements.
  • It’s cost-effective.
  • It’s generally safe if not taken above the recommended limits.
  • Nutrient synergy* may be higher.
  • It can be formulated for mornings or evenings.
  • It doesn’t allow for personalisation.
  • There’s slight potential for excess.
  • It may not contain enough of a certain nutrient you need.
INDIVIDUAL SUPPLEMENTS
  • It can be personalised to your specific nutrient needs; it can address a specific nutrient deficiency, or life stage.
  • It’s generally safe, if not above your recommended limits.
  • When using different individual vitamins/minerals, you can take them at different times of the day so that they don’t compete for absorption in your gut.
  • It can be cumbersome and expensive if taking many individual vitamins.

Tips for choosing a supplement


When choosing a supplement, always read the product label – “Supplement Facts” – to ensure you get the one best for your needs. Check the label to ensure that you’re not taking over the recommended daily amount, unless instructed by your physician. For those on chronic medication, or starting medication, inform your doctor or pharmacist about your supplementation regimen. And finally, when purchasing a particular brand, always check if there is a full list of ingredients on the product, a package insert, a valid company address with contact details and compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is a prerequisite for health product manufacturing.


    Footnote

    *Nutrient synergy refers to how two or more nutrients work together to have a greater physiological impact on the body than when each nutrient is consumed individually.




References


  1. Fisher, L. (2023). Should You Take a Multivitamin? We Asked a Doctor.. Real Simple [Online] Accessed on 17 January 2024
  2. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2023). Should I Take a Daily Multivitamin?. Harvard School of Public Health [Online] Accessed on 17 January 2024
  3. Ruff, A. (2022). Multivitamin vs. Individual Vitamins: Which is Best?. Thorne [Online] Accessed on 17 January 2024
  4. Ruscio, M. (2022). Multivitamins vs. Individual Vitamins: Which Is Better?. Dr Ruscio.com [Online] Accessed on 16 January 2024
  5. Townsend, J. R., Kirby, T. O., Sapp, P. A., Gonzalez, A. M., Marshall, T. M., & Esposito, R. (2023). Nutrient synergy: Definition, evidence, and future directions.. Frontiers in Nutrition, 10, 1279925. Accessed on 17 January 2024
  6. Wallace, T. (2024). I’m A Nutrition Scientist—Here’s Why I Take A Multivitamin.. Forbes Health [Online] Accessed on 17 January 2024

Disclaimer

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