A 2019 Tufts and Harvard study found that despite the $43-billion supplement industry marketing that states otherwise, people who took a multivitamin lived no longer than those that didn’t.
In fact, consuming a multi may backfire. “Some people who take a multivitamin use them to justify less healthy eating habits,” says JoAnn Manson, M.D., professor at Harvard Medical School. Vitamin-takers may become complacent about diet, thinking they’re covered by nutrients in the vitamin, so why not order the loaded nachos?
The above information considered, science does show a benefit for reducing cancer risk, says Michael Roizen, M.D., Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic.
A randomized clinical trial (the gold standard in research) that found an 8 percent reduction in cancer risk among initially healthy older men who took a daily multi for more than a decade. It’s 18 percent, but still: cancer.
“The data on multivitamins in the short-term isn’t beneficial for otherwise healthy men,” says Dr. Roizen. So if you take a supplement for a few months, and then stop for a few years, and then repeat, you’re simply forking over your cash to supplement companies. (The top four companies spent a collective $155 million on advertising in 2014 alone.)
If you do have a highly restricted or poor diet, suffer from a gastrointestinal problem that impairs nutrient absorption such as celiac disease, or take certain medications including proton pump inhibitors for heartburn, then you may need a multivitamin and/or a specific nutrient supplement.
This is the kind of situation where if you haven’t already talked to your doctor about a multivitamin, it’s time.
So, what kind to buy?
Well, the FDA considers multivitamins a dietary supplement and so doesn’t have to approve or inspect them. That’s why you should look for a third-party seal, like USP or NSF, which verifies that what’s on the label is what’s actually in the pill, says Dr. Roizen.
Choose a brand that contains the active (and more beneficial) form of folate called methylfolate, not folic acid. And consider taking half your multi in the morning and half in the evening to keep levels steadier, Dr. Roizen says.
Why It’s a Good Buy: This multi contains methylfolate, not folic acid, which aids in nutrient absorption. Plus, it’s certified by the National Sanitation Foundation International. That NSF seal ensures product quality. Not many multivitamins feature both methylfolate and a third-party seal, as you’ll soon see.
Nature Made Multi for Him
Why It’s a Good Buy: You get at least 100 percent of the USDA recommended daily allowance of vitamins C, D, and E in a capsule that’s much smaller than some of the horse pills you’ll find in the supplement aisle. Plus, it’s USP certified for quality control.
MegaFood Multi for Men
Why It’s a Good Buy: Other than Klean’s offering, it’s the only other multivitamin on this list that has methylfolate and a third-party certification (NSF).
Why It’s a Good Buy: This multi has the gold-standard NSF seal of approval. That means what’s advertised on the Nutrition Facts Panel is what’s actually inside the pill itself.
Active MV Multivitamin and Mineral Formula
Why It’s a Good Buy: This option also carries the vaunted NSF seal.
Kirkland Signature Adult 50+ Mature Multi
Why It’s a Good Buy: This Costo-branded multivitamin has the USP seal of approval. There’s more calcium in this version than their more general multi, which is why it carries a 50+ marketing angle. A bottle is pretty inexpensive, especially compared to some boutique brands, too.
Nature Made Multi Complete
Why It’s a Good Buy: This Nature Made product is USP certified. Another bonus: You can find their products pretty much everywhere.
Kirkland Signature Daily Multi
Why It’s a Good Buy: This version of Costco’s multivitamin is for general health, without age in mind. It also proudly displays the USP badge.