Multivitamins are big business. According to a Forbes report, the global VMS (vitamins, minerals and supplements) industry generated about $32 billion in revenue in 2012.
If you go to any drug or health food store, there are literally hundreds of vitamins and supplements to choose from.
Vitamin supplements are often marketed as cures that address low energy, digestive issues, mental clarity and sleep issues, to name a few.
They are engineered to supplement our bodies with all the essential vitamins and nutrients we should be getting from a healthy, balanced diet.
But there are many schools of thought when it comes to vitamin intake, one of which is that we are supplementing our bodies unnecessarily, especially when all the vitamins we need can be derived from the foods we eat.
A multivitamin contains both vitamins and minerals, and if you look at the label, they could contain up to 20 of them or more. While some experts say that your body will only absorb what you need, water soluble vitamins like C and B are harmless because your body will excrete the excess.
However, this is not true for all the vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin.
There are other vitamins - like A, D and E - that are fat-soluble and are not so easily excreted. Instead, they are stored in fat for future use, accumulate in your tissues, can become toxic and lead to health issues.
Recommended doses should always be followed to avoid vitamin overdose. Too much vitamin D, for example, can lead to fatigue, sleepiness, nausea or vomiting.
A strategy for vitamin intake should always be tailored to each individual's needs since taking certain vitamins become more important during specific life stages. For example, pregnant women require a different set of vitamins than post-menopausal women.
People with dietary restrictions - like vegans or those who are lactose-intolerant - or have gastrointestinal conditions may benefit from taking multivitamin supplements since they may be unable to eat a variety of vitamin-rich foods.
The best way to ensure you're getting all your required vitamins and minerals, while avoiding toxicity and possible health issues down the road, is to make a concerted effort to eat well. Also, only take a supplement recommended by your doctor or naturopath to compensate for what you specifically lack, not a multivitamin as a blanket solution that contains things you don’t need.