Teenagers are one group at risk for not getting enough of certain nutrients. They tend to eat a higher proportion of their food away from home, including fast food and not a lot of vegetables, fruits and low-fat milk, and they also skip meals. Taking a multivitamin may help fill in any gaps, although it's always better to get nutrients from food than from supplements. Some multivitamins are better than others, however.
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Consider a Teen Multivitamin
Although teenagers can use a regular multivitamin, they do have slightly different nutrient needs than adults, and boys have different nutrient needs than girls. For example, male teens need 11 milligrams of iron per day, and females need 15 milligrams per day, compared to 8 milligrams per day for adult men and 18 for women. For this reason, teenagers may be better off with a multivitamin geared to their gender and age.
Check the Percent Daily Values
Avoid multivitamins that contain more than 100 percent of the daily value for any nutrient, except perhaps in the case of vitamin D, for which there is some controversy over the relatively low recommended daily value. It's possible to get too much of some nutrients, especially if you also eat fortified foods or take other single-nutrient supplements. Too much vitamin A can weaken your bones and damage your liver, for example, and too much vitamin B-6 could affect your nerves.
Look for the USP Verified Symbol
Some multivitamins may contain contaminants or might not have the nutrient amounts listed on the label. You can minimize this risk by choosing brands displaying the United States Pharmacopeia seal on their labels. The USP-verified mark shows these supplements have been tested and are bioavailable, provide the right amount of nutrients and do not contain contaminants.
Skip the Extras
If there isn't a daily value for a nutrient, you don't need it in your multivitamin. While some of these ingredients may have benefits, a Consumer Reports article from September 2010 noted that multivitamins typically won't provide enough of these extras to have any real effect on your health. Also, some of these extras, including some antioxidants, might actually increase the risk of certain diseases when taken in supplement form.