Are multivitamins really good for your health?

For decades, studies have concluded that multivitamins do little, if any, to prevent chronic disease. Yet a third of American adults get one every day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you’re still wondering if you need a multi, here’s what they want you to know.

What exactly are multivitamins?

The term “multivitamin” is a misnomer, especially since these supplements often contain more than just vitamins. “Manufacturers can include a combination of vitamins and minerals, but they can also add other ingredients, such as herbs, antioxidants and amino acids,” says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a nutritionist in a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Depending on the brand, the formulas can vary significantly and are often designed for a specific group based on age, gender or health condition.”

Although multis have been around since the 1940s, according to past research there is still no standard definition of the nutrients they should contain. It’s surprising considering they’re the most popular dietary supplement in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What are the nutrients commonly found in multivitamins?

In a perfect world, a multivitamin would provide all the vitamins and minerals needed to stay strong and healthy in the right amounts. In reality, this is usually not the case, and an increasing number of multis exceed the daily value (DV; the recommended amount of a nutrient most people can consume in a day) for many vitamins and minerals. How come?

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