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6 Pros and Cons of Taking a Daily Multivitamin, According to Doctors

Here's your handy guide to making the right decision for you.

Supplements are a booming business in America—one that raked in over $35 billion in 2022 by some estimates. However, it's also an under-regulated business in which it's all too common to see exaggerated endorsements and misleading advertisements. Many people, eager to improve their health by taking supplements or multivitamins, are understandably confused by competing claims surrounding their use. If you've ever debated whether a multivitamin might be of some benefit to you, it can be hard to cut through the noise.

Weighing the pros and cons with your eyes wide open to the potential risks and benefits is one way to make the best decision for your health (doing so with the help of your doctor is even better). Ready to settle the debate once and for all? These are the things to consider when choosing whether a daily multivitamin is right for you, according to doctors and other health professionals.

RELATED: 21 Surprising Signs You Have a Vitamin Deficiency.

PRO: Multivitamins may help fill nutritional gaps you don't know about.

A happy mature woman with short white hair wearing a gray long-sleeved shirt takes a vitamin with a glass of water
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Though there's broad agreement among doctors that it's best to get the bulk of your nutrients through a healthy and varied diet, some experts say that taking a multivitamin can help you cover your nutritional bases.

"I like to think of taking a multivitamin as an insurance policy. An overwhelming portion of Americans do not meet their daily micronutrient needs," says Claire Rifkin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Claire Rifkin Nutrition. "Supplementing with a multivitamin can be a good way of ensuring you are meeting your daily needs."

The majority of pharmacists appear to agree. A 2019 survey of 639 pharmacists found that 78 percent reported recommending vitamins and minerals to their patients. Among those recommending vitamins, 91 percent reported recommending multivitamins, making them the most commonly recommended vitamin product.

CON: It's better to identify and target specific deficiencies.

Female nurse about to take a blood sample from a young female patient
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Though the research suggests that multivitamins are more commonly recommended than any one vitamin or mineral, many experts say it's far better to identify particular deficiencies and target those through diet and strategic supplementation. Your doctor can help you determine if you have any such nutritional gaps.

"Before I recommend supplements or medications to my clients, I consider their family health history, personal medical history, lifestyle habits, and an in-depth review of their biomarkers through blood tests that will specify deficiencies in vitamins and minerals," Florence Comite, MD, founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Healthy Longevity, tells Best Life.

RELATED: 12 Supplements You Should Never Take Together, Medical Experts Say.

PRO: They may be useful for certain groups of people.

pregnant woman sitting and consulting doctor
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Some people have greater nutritional needs than others or are more likely to have vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Seniors, pregnant people, and people with deficiencies, restrictive diets, or absorption problems may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin.

However, it's important to note that these are often considered more vulnerable groups, meaning it's best to talk with your doctor before beginning any new regimen.

CON: The majority of people won't benefit, research suggests.

Close-up portrait of a man wearing a denim shirt taking a vitamin with a glass of water
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Though a minority of people may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin, the majority are wasting their money, medical experts say.

"They just do nothing for most people," says Jamie Martinez, PharmD, a pharmacist and medical content creator. "We have long-term clinical data showing multivitamins are worthless for most people unless you're over 65 or have a specific absorption issue," she shared in a recent TikTok post.

"We have good evidence that for the vast majority of people, taking multivitamins won't help you," Pieter Cohen, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Harvard Health Publishing. "Most people would be better off just drinking a full glass of water and skipping the vitamin."

RELATED: 6 Gummy Vitamins That Are Even Better Than Pills.

PRO: They're unlikely to harm you.

A closeup of a hand holding a supplement pill out of the bottle
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For most people, taking a daily multivitamin is unlikely to cause any harm. That's good news, since one-third of the American population reports taking them, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Though it is possible to ingest megadoses of vitamins and minerals that are toxic to the body, the vast majority of vitamins that your body doesn't need or use will simply be filtered out by the kidneys and released when you urinate.

"There's very little harm that we've found in taking multivitamins," Mikhail Varshavski, MD, a physician and popular content creator who goes by "Dr. Mike" on social media, recently said on the Rachael Ray Show. "They're not going to hurt you."

CON: They can cause interactions with drugs or other supplements.

Senior woman holding a glass of water in one hand and a pill or vitamin in the other
shurkin_son / Shutterstock

However, just because harm is unlikely doesn't mean it's unheard of. When taking a multivitamin, you run the risk of it interacting with other medications or supplements you may be taking. It's also possible to ingest too much of a particular vitamin or mineral if you're already getting a lot of it through your diet.

"Multivitamins can interact with prescription medications and affect how they work," warns Rifkin. "For example, vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners. It's also always possible for some individuals to experience unwanted side effects from a multivitamin that may not be dangerous, but may be uncomfortable," she says.

HaVy Ngo-Hamilton, PharmD, a pharmacist, clinical consultant, and pharmacy editor at BuzzRx, agrees that this can pose a danger to patients. She tells Best Life that it "could cause undesirable adverse effects or even severe harm and hospitalization."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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