The Right Multivitamin
The Right Multivitamin

Women, men, those over 50, those with chronic illness, and vegetarians have special needs to consider when choosing a multivitamin. Review your special needs below.
Why Everyone should be Taking a Multivitamin

There's nothing like a sound, low-fat diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to supply the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, we don't always eat well. Add to that the possible harmful effects of stress, aging, lack of exercise, pollution and illness, and supplements become even more important. That's why so many experts now recommend that everyone take a daily multivitamin.

The Right Choice: See Our Multivitamin Chart

This chart outlines the key vitamins and minerals your multivitamin should supply and the main benefits of each nutrient. It also gives what's called the daily value (DV) - a new government standard that generally corresponds to the RDA. The DV satisfies minimum daily requirements and helps prevent a deficiency disease, such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C). The higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in many multivitamins may actually help prevent disease, delay its onset or even lessen the severity of certain ailments.

Good Reason to Take an extra-strength Formula

If you eat an optimal diet of low-fat foods, at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and chicken, lean meat, or fish several times a week, you can probably get away with a once-daily formula. But even those who consume a fairly well rounded diet and yield to junk-food lapses only occasionally can benefit from an extra-strength formula. If your idea of lunch is a slice of pizza and a diet soda, look for a multivitamin in the upper ranges of our chart.
•Read the label carefully to see
what you're getting. Many "high-potency"
formulas provide only extra amounts of the less-expensive ingredients.

•Don't pay more for "timed-
released" or "related" products.
They're not worth the extra cost.

• Check the serving size. You may need to swallow up to six extra-strength pills a day to get the amounts listed on the label.

•Don't double up on one-a-days You'll be getting too much of certain nutrients, and not enough of others. If you want an extra-strength formula, buy one.

• Avoid mega doses that greatly exceed the upper doses listed in our chart, especially with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; the minerals iron and selenium; or when taking any supplements long term. Be sure to account for any vitamins and minerals you may also be taking as individual supplements or as part of an herbal formula.


Finding the Right Multivitamin for You

Main Benefits
Fights infections; maintains eye and skin health. May be supplied in part as beta-carotene, which may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease and boost immunity. Pregnant women should not take more than 5,000 IU of vitamin A daily, but higher doses of beta-carotene are safe.
5,000 IU
5,000 IU
5,000-10,000 IU (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene
Fights colds; may help prevent cancer, heart disease, cataracts. If your formula doesn't supply at least 500 mg, consider taking an extra supplement.
60 mg
60-100 mg
100-1,000 mg (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene
Promotes healthy bones and teeth; may protect against cancer.Adults may be deficient even with the usual doses of 400IU  in multivitamins. Those over 50 should get at least 1000 IU and those over 70 may need at least 2000 IU of Vitamin D3. Avoid daily doses exceeding 10,000 IU, which may be toxic.
400 IU
200-400 IU
may need an additional 1000IU above what is in the multivitamin. Get a Vit D blood test to determine your needs.
May help prevent cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. Everyone should get at least 200 IU daily. Avoid doses above 1,200 IU, which can cause headaches.
30 IU
30-100 IU
100-400 IU
Aids energy production; promotes nerve and heart health.
1.5 mg
1.5-25 mg
25-100 mg
May prevent cataracts and migraines; helps heal rosacea.
1.7 mg
1.7-25 mg
Helps lower cholesterol and improve circulation; fosters healthy nerve cells.
20 mg
20-25 mg
25-100 mg
May prevent heart disease and stroke; maintains nervous system health. Avoid taking more than 200 mg on a daily basis.
2 mg
2-25 mg
25-100 mg
Prevents birth defects, heart disease, possibly some cancers. Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant should get at least 600 mcg daily.
400 mcg
400 mcg
400-800 mcg
Promotes nerve health; prevents heart disease. People over 50 and vegetarians should look for formulas that supply at least 100 mcg.
400 mcg
400 mcg
50-400 mcg
Promotes blood clotting; helps strengthen bones.
80 mcg
0-80 mcg
60-300 mcg
Promotes healthy nails, hair, and nerves.
300 mcg
0-100 mcg
100-300 mcg
Strengthens nerves; promotes energy metabolism.
300 mcg
0-100 mcg
25-100 mcg
Builds strong bones, teeth, and nails.
0-50 mcg
50 mcg-2 mg
Prevents or slows osteoporosis. Women of all ages and men over 50 need at least 1,200 mg daily. A separate supplement is probably necessary. Avoid daily doses of 2,500 mg or higher.
1,000 mg
0-25 mg
25-400 mg
Maintains healthy blood sugar levels;helps break down fats.
120 mcg
0-100 mcg
100-200 mcg
Prevents cardiovascular disease; maintains bones, tendons, and nerves.
2 mg
1-2 mg
1-2 mg
Prevents anemia in younger women. Men and postmenopausal women should opt for iron-free formulas. Vegetarians who avoid all animal products and women with heavy periods should get at least 18 mg a day. Don't exceed 65 mg daily.
18 mg
0-18 mg
0 -18 mg
Protects against heart disease; may ease asthma and diabetes.
400 mg
100-200 mg
200-400 mg
Strengthens bones; may be good for the heart and prevent seizures.
2 mg
2-5 mg
5-10 mg
Helps the body use iron and burn fats.
75 mcg
25-65 mcg
65-100 mcg
May help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
3,500 mg
5-100 mg
5-100 mg
Helps prevent cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration; fights cold sores and shingles. Get at least 100 mcg a day, but avoid daily doses above 900 mcg, which can be dangerous.
70 mcg
0-100 mcg
100-200 mcg
Builds bones; may aid people with diabetes.
0-25 mcg
25-50 mcg
May cure colds, relieve prostrate complaints, and slow macular degeneration. Vegetarians who avoid all animal products, including dairy and eggs, should aim to get 30 mg. Don't exceed 60 mg daily, which can be harmful.
15 mg
15 mg
15-30 mg

Special Needs

of all ages need at least 1,200 mg of calcium daily, through supplements or diet, to slow bone loss. Most multivitamins don't supply this much: A separate calcium supplement is probably your best bet. Younger women, especially those with heavy menstrual periods, need plenty of iron (18 mg a day ). Those considering pregnancy should get extra folic acid and avoid high-dose vitamin A. Special "women's formulas" may contain expensive herbs you may not need.

should avoid multivitamins containing iron: Iron build-up has been linked to heart disease. Be wary of "men's formulas that tout ingredients like saw palmetto for prostate complaints. Many of these high-profile "extras" are present in such small amounts that they provide little or no therapeutic benefit.

Over 50,
opt for iron-free formulas: Too much of the mineral can cause heart problems. Look for vitamins B6 and B12 in the higher ranges, because as people age, they often have trouble absorbing these nutrients. Older women and men can benefit from the bone-strengthening effects of extra calcium (1,200 mg a day) and vitamin D (400 to 600 IU a day).

Chronic Illness
can lead to poor eating habits or deplete nutrient stores. Extra-strength formulas are especially important if you suffer from a long-term digestive ailment or have liver or gallbladder problems. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.

who avoid all animal foods, including dairy and egg products, need at least 100 mcg daily of vitamin B12. Zinc, iron and calcium are also very important minerals for strict vegetarians.

Date Published: 11/11/2016 > Printer-friendly Version Return to Top