Are Multivitamins Necessary For Everyone?

Generally speaking, your body needs sufficient vitamins and minerals to function normally. While your body can naturally produce some vitamins like D and K (per MedlinePlus), it can't make many of the other essential nutrients that are vital to survival. That's why we need to rely on food to absorb vitamins into our systems. Usually, you can receive sufficient vitamins from nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. A broad, well-rounded diet is still the best way to get your vitamins and minerals, per Harvard Health Publishing. Only people who can't get the needed nutrients from natural sources, especially those with decreased absorptive abilities or on certain interfering medications, are recommended to take multivitamins to make up for the nutritional deficiency.

A multivitamin is a pill containing various types of vitamins that are normally consumed from foods or absorbed from other natural sources, per Multivitamins can be found in the form of capsules, powders, or liquids. For this reason, multivitamins are usually used to treat vitamin deficiencies due to low vitamin intake or medical conditions like liver failure, gastric bypass, or chronic diarrhea. Multivitamins have also become a popular over-the-counter option for health-conscious consumers. But is more always better and are multivitamins for everyone? Here's what experts have to say.

Multivitamins aren't mandatory

Wondering if multivitamins are for you? It depends on your lifestyle and nutrition needs. "While it should not replace a healthy diet, it can be a supplement to a healthy diet," says nutritionist Melissa Morris (via The Zoe Report). For instance, multivitamins can compensate for the lack of iron, B12, and vitamin D in those who follow a non-dairy and vegetarian or vegan diet. Pregnant women who don't get enough essential nutrients or people who naturally struggle with absorbing vitamins and minerals can also benefit from multivitamins. To determine whether you're a good candidate for a multivitamin, it's better to speak with your doctor, who can evaluate the levels of certain nutrients in your blood, let you know if you actually need supplements, and recommend you the right ones.

While multivitamins are generally safe, they aren't necessary for everyone and daily consumption can't replace smart lifestyle choices. If you're sufficiently nourishing your body through a balanced diet and have no substantial dietary restrictions, you have no need for multivitamins, according to Dr. Larry Appel, M.D., a director at Johns Hopkins. As he says, "If you follow a healthy diet, you can get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from food."

For Dr. Irwin Rosenberg, a professor at Tufts University (via NPR), the idea of putting all the vitamins you need into one pill makes no sense. Instead of taking a daily multivitamin, he uses individual vitamins, like vitamin D or vitamin B12, to make up for the specific nutrients that his body can't get through diet.

Beware of multivitamin overdose

Too much of anything is bad, including vitamins. If you consume fortified foods and beverages daily in addition to multivitamins, you risk surpassing the maximum level of daily intake of certain nutrients and sustaining adverse health effects. In other words, multivitamin overdose can occur when you accidentally or purposefully take more than the recommended amount of supplements. "At high doses, (supplements) are drugs," says registered dietitian Donald Boyd (via WebMD).

Because multivitamins include many different substances, an overdose can result in a variety of issues. Some common symptoms of multivitamin overdose include eye irritation, irregular heartbeat, bone and joint pain, muscle weakness, and reddened skin (via Mount Sinai). Long-term or more severe cases of overdose can lead to hair loss, convulsions, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, or fainting. And these aren't even exhaustive lists.

In 2016, an overdose of vitamin D caused the death of a 10-year-old child, India Today reports. According to the medical reports, the overconsumption of vitamin D tablets for a continuous 21-day period increased the nutrient level in his body by 30 times above the normal level. Before his death, doctors picked up a significant calcium buildup in his intestine. The bottom line is your body might need vitamins, but it doesn't need high-dose supplements for every single one. Before taking any supplements or multivitamins, speak with your healthcare professional to determine whether you need extra vitamins at all, and exactly which ones to focus on.