Should You Take Multivitamins vs. Single Supplements, or Both?

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Vitamin supplements can either support or harm your health.
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A staggering 77 percent of U.S. adults reported taking dietary supplements over the previous year in a 2019 survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

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And considering there are more than 90,000 products on the market, you may be wondering if it's more beneficial to take a daily multivitamin vs. individual vitamins — or both.

The answer: It all comes down to your diet.

Why You May Consider Taking a Multivitamin

According to the CRN's survey, a multivitamin ranked as the most popular supplement among adults (58 percent). But, perhaps that number should be much higher because nearly everyone would benefit from taking a multivitamin, Brittany Michels, RDN, LDN for The Vitamin Shoppe, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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"I have met very few individuals that consistently meet baseline nutritional needs on a daily basis," she says.

Also, those who follow an eating pattern that either eliminates or greatly restricts entire food groups — such as vegan, keto, low-carb, gluten-free or dairy-free — should consider adding a multivitamin to their regimen in order to fill in any nutritional gaps, Michels says.

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For example, countless studies found an association between the keto diet and various health issues, including hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar levels), per a June 2021 report in ​StatPearls​.

But nutritional deficiencies related to hypoglycemia may be met by taking supplements, including a daily multivitamin that contains vitamins A, C, E, B-complex vitamins and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium, per Mount Sinai.

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"Plus, people who deal with digestive issues, food intolerances and/or malabsorption issues [such as Celiac disease] would also benefit from taking a multivitamin," says Michels.

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Why You May Consider Taking Single Supplements

Once again, your typical food choices will determine the individual supplements that may be necessary in your wellness plan.

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"Every restrictive diet has a risk of nutrient deficiencies, and the nutrient levels affected would be based on the restricted or eliminated food group(s)," explains Michels. "This is why some find taking single supplements, in addition to a multivitamin, beneficial in meeting baseline nutritional requirements."

For example, the majority of her Midwest clients are deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient our body naturally produces when exposed to sunlight.

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"Unfortunately, most multivitamins don't offer enough vitamin D to keep our vitamin D levels in the normal range," Michels says. "So a singular vitamin D, in addition to a multivitamin, is a must." (Vitamin D is the second most-taken supplement in the United States, according to the CRN survey.)

She states that another go-to singular supplement is calcium, being that numerous Americans fail to eat enough calcium-rich foods. "Yet because calcium binds to many of the minerals in a multivitamin supplement, multivitamins tend to offer low amounts," says Michels.

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The Bottom Line

Multivitamins and single vitamin and mineral supplements can offer essential nutrients that may be missing from your diet.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, nearly 75 percent of Americans have an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy and oils, as well as high in foods that contain added sugars, saturated fats and sodium — which likely means that vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes could be added via supplementation.

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While both multivitamins and single supplements can offer nutritional benefits, the National Institutes of Health recommends talking with your doctor on the types of supplements, as well as the proper dosage, that suit your specific needs. Michels also suggests speaking with a registered dietitian for more guidance.

"There's a lot of overwhelming nutrition information out there," she states, adding that The Vitamin Shoppe offers complimentary consultations with educated nutritionists.

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