Multivitamins are an easy way to get the vitamins and minerals your diet may lack. While it may seem like a good thing could be made better by upping the doses and taking a “high potency” multivitamin instead, odds are you don’t need a high potency vitamin and you could possibly suffer adverse effects from taking one.
High potency vitamins contain 100 percent or more of the daily recommended allowances of vitamins and minerals, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Individual vitamins and minerals supplied in quantities of 100 percent of more can be specifically labeled as “high potency” if the entire multivitamin doesn’t meet the criteria
The purpose of high potency multivitamins is to provide all the vitamins and minerals you need in a day. Since most foods contain adequate amounts of most nutrients, it’s unlikely that you need a high potency multivitamin, although there are exceptions.
Some people require high potency multivitamins. People who have undergone gastric bypass, for example, have decreased absorption of food and nutrients after surgery and often need high potency supplements. People on restricted diets such as vegans, who don’t consume meat and may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, may benefit from certain high potency multivitamins. Smokers may need extra vitamin C. Pregnant women need folate supplements, preferably starting before pregnancy, to help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Elderly people, who may not eat well and who have other medical issues, may also benefit from high potency supplements. Post-menopausal women and those at risk for osteoporosis may benefit from extra calcium and vitamin D.
If you eat a reasonable diet, you don’t require any multivitamin, much less a high potency one, the Iowa State University Extension states. Many vitamins can cause harm if taken in excessive doses. Vitamin E supplementation of 400 International Units per day may increase your risk of death by 6 percent, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Vitamin E can also potentiate bleeding in people on a blood thinner or those with blood disorders. Taking vitamin E with beta-carotene, which becomes vitamin A in your body, increased smokers’ risk of developing lung cancer by 28 percent and their risk of dying from heart disease by 26 percent in one study, registered dietician Sara Parr reports.
While vitamins in foods have positive effects, it’s not clear that pills have same effects on your body, Parr explains. At certain times in life, such as during pregnancy, a multivitamin has definite value. High potency vitamins, however, should be taken only if your medical practitioner recommends their use.