The problem with Multivitamins

According to a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 36% of US adults consume multivitamin mineral products¹. More than a third of us consume multivitamins, but how many of us actually know what we need?

Research vs Popular Wisdom

Certain nutrient deficiencies are more prevalent than others. For example, in 2010, 29% of the American population was clinically insufficient in Vitamin D. What’s more, 77% of the population is below the optimal amounts of Vitamin D for bone health²,³. So most people would benefit from Vitamin D supplementation as a precaution.

Certain nutrient deficiencies are more prevalent than others.

However, other deficiencies are quite rare, like Vitamin C. Vitamin C is commonly used as a food additive to prevent oxidation processes, which makes it hard not to get enough of it, even if you don’t eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. However, according to the above mentioned study, 36% of US adults take supplements containing this vitamin.

Too much of a good thing…

Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. An excessive amount of a vitamin is called hypervitaminosis and can cause quite unpleasant or even dangerous symptoms depending on the vitamin.

For example, Hypervitaminosis D (excessive amounts of Vitamin D) can cause hypercalcification of tissues like heart, muscles, kidneys and blood vessels which in turn can lead to kidney stones, weakness and cardiovascular diseases⁴. Excessive Vitamin C intake can cause diarrhea and other gastro issues.

An excessive amount of a vitamin is called hypervitaminosis and can cause quite unpleasant or even dangerous symptoms.

So before you jump on the bandwagon of vitamin supplementation, you should know what you actually need and how much of it.

Blunt instruments

The problem with multivitamin mineral products is that they apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Multivitamins are usually not personalized and tailored to an individual’s need. According to the 2010 census, there are 75 million women over 40 in the United States⁵. So even a multivitamin for a seemingly specific group of people is really targeted a huge population and simply cannot allow for much nuance or personalisation to your specific needs.

Multivitamins are usually not personalized and tailored to an individual’s need.

More importantly however, most people don’t even know what they are lacking in and where they are sufficiently supplied. Taking products with a broad range of nutrients could get them into excess levels for some nutrients while still not reaching optimal status for others.

Quantity over quality

Also, most multivitamin minerals use forms of nutrients which are cheap to get in order to keep prices low. However, those forms are not always the most bioavailable or tolerable. For example, a lot of products use the cheaper Magnesium oxide which has a bioavailability of around 4%⁶. This is extremely low compared to the 30% of Magnesium in its citrate form.

A magnesium supplement in its oxide form.

Therefore, it would be smart to first measure what you actually need and then choose high quality supplements in the right doses to get your levels fixed. This would not only save you from possible side effects, but also saves your money.

I’m Simon Goedecke, a nutrient scientist at Baze. We measure your body’s actual nutrient levels and then send you daily pill packs dosed to your body’s needs. Learn more here.

  1. Kantor, Elizabeth D., et al. “Trends in dietary supplement use among US adults from 1999–2012.” Jama 316.14 (2016): 1464–1474.
  2. Brock, K., et al. “Low vitamin D status is associated with physical inactivity, obesity and low vitamin D intake in a large US sample of healthy middle-aged men and women.” The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 121.1 (2010): 462–466.
  3. Bailey, Regan L., et al. “Estimation of total usual calcium and vitamin D intakes in the United States.” The Journal of nutrition140.4 (2010): 817–822.
  4. Del Valle, Heather B., et al., eds. Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. National Academies Press, 2011.
  5. Howden, Lindsay M., and Julie A. Meyer. “Age and sex composition: 2010.” 2010 Census Briefs, US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration. US CENSUS BUREAU (2010).
  6. Firoz, Muhammad, and Mark Graber. “Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations.” Magnesium research14.4 (2001): 257–262.

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