What is a Multivitamin

A multivitamin is nothing more than an oral supplement that contains a whole medley of different vitamins. The problem is that there is no real regulatory definition for what a multivitamin should be made up of. That means the quality and ingredients can vary quite a bit between brands.

There are two varieties of multivitamins: synthetic and natural vitamins.

Synthetic vs Natural Vitamins

Synthetic (i.e. traditional) multivitamins are created in a lab while natural vitamins are deprived completely from whole foods. Consuming natural vitamins gives you vitamins from food sources.

I don’t think anyone will debate the fact that wholefood multivitamins are a better choice than synthetic vitamins. Studies have shown that the body does not respond to some synthetic vitamins like it does for natural vitamins([9. THE POTATO IN SEA-SCURVY. The Lancet. 1970;38(992):789]).

The main issue people have between the type types of vitamins is the cost; wholefood vitamins are more expensive.

The Claim: Daily multivitamins supplementation will make you healthier. The idea behind taking a multi is to protect yourself against any potential vitamin deficiencies. Which is good in theory.

Key Research

There is a lot of inconclusive and conflicting research about multivitamins. The overall research trend now show multivitamins to be useless for the general population. The assumption here being that people are not deficient in vitamins because they are getting them through diet.

The main takeaway points from the research:

  • (Some) synthetic vitamins are not utilized/absorbed as effectively as naturally derived vitamins([1. THE POTATO IN SEA-SCURVY. The Lancet. 1970;38(992):789]).
  • Multivitamins do NOT enhance physical performance: When it comes to enhancing physical performance, a study in 1992, concluded that regularly taking multivitamins did NOT enhance physical performance in the test subjects([2. (Singh A, Moses FM, Deuster PA. Chronic multivitamin-mineral supplementation does not enhance physical performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24(6):726-32.)])
  • Multivitamins do NOT reduce chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer: a recent meta-study done on multiple studies show([3. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1767855])
  • Multivitamins do not reduce cognitive decline: a recent meta-study done on multiple studies show([4.http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00002])
  • Multivitamins do not reduce changes of heart attack: a recent meta-study done on multiple studies show([5. http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00001])

Examine.com, a 3rd party investigative site that examines the major studies done on supplements, concludes that multivitamins are neither healthy nor dangerous and that if you if you have a good diet, the benefits are negligible. If you have poor diet (no vegetables or fruit, for instance), then they may help.

General Conclusion

If you have a balanced diet with enough of the right kind of vegetables, you shouldn’t need to supplement with multivitamins as you are just wasting your money. However, if you don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits in your diet, you may benefit from a multivitamin.

Hence the claim that daily supplementation of multivitamins will make you healthier is false.

Vegetables and fruits can reduce cancer, diabetes and a number of other medical conditions([14.Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in US adults: the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(1):93-9)]). The natural leap in logic from this is that ingesting the same nutrients found in those vegetables and fruits would also provide a benefit.

The groups, outside of populations with nutrient deficiencies due to diet, that would then benefit the most from multivitamins are athletes on heavy training regimens and those on calorie restricting diets which might be deficient with certain vitamins. Both groups are much more likely to be vitamin deficient than the normal populations.



the research seems to be overwhelmingly point to the fact that multivitamins do very little for the general population, despite the marketing hype and claims made about them. Unless you have a very poor diet, multivitamins will do very little.



if you are a hard training athlete or you are cutting your calories to lose body fat, you’ll probably benefit from a multivitamin; if only to cover all bases. Multivitamins are a cheap way to safeguard against any potential vitamin deficiencies and worth the minimal cost of taking them if you train.


if you are NOT an athlete and you eat plenty of vegetables in your diet.

What Multivitamin to Take?

Here’s my recommended order for what sort of multivitamin to take, should you decide you are in the group that would benefit from a multi

  1. Proper Diet from Natural Foods high in vegetables and fruit
  2. Green Powder Supplement
  3. Whole-Food derived multivitamin
  4. Traditional (synthetic) multivitamin

Explanation: It’s always best to get what you need FIRST from your diet, then fall back on supplementation afterwards, if you the diet is deficient. A better choice than a traditional multivitamin would be something that closely approximates the natural way of getting vitamins (i.e. vegetables and fruit). The closest to this would be to take a super green powder (Greens+ say) which is basically a boatload of vegetables and fruits distilled into powder which you then mix into a liquid. If consuming Green Powder is not feasible, then opt for a whole food vitamin tablets. And if you can’t get whole food vitamins, then synthetic vitamins are better than nothing.