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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Multis Miss the Mark

Many consumers believe that taking a multivitamin is essential for good health. But when you pop that pill, do you really know what you’re getting?

ConsumerLab (an independent tester of dietary supplements) put 32 multivitamin/multimineral supplements to the test (including tablets, caplets, capsules, chewables, liquids, strips, gummies, and powders), and the results may just shake up consumer faith in multis.

Eleven multis marketed to people (and one to pets) failed the ConsumerLab test. Some were short on important vitamins or minerals, containing less than the label stated. One children's vitamin contained an excessive amount of vitamin A — enough to exceed what the Institute of Medicine considers safe (too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, decreased bone density, and loss of muscle coordination). One women's vitamin was contaminated with lead, and a handful of products failed to dissolve properly, which means they may not get absorbed into the blood stream at all.

This report raises a big question: do we even need multis? In my opinion, not if you eat well. And if you’re falling short food-wise (especially fruits, veggies, and whole grains), changing your diet instead of turning to a bottle is a much better strategy (as we dietitians always say, “Kitchen cabinet, not medicine cabinet.”).

And I’m not alone. Last year, a panel of 13 experts was convened by the Office of Dietary Supplements and the Office of Medical Applications of Research at the National Institutes of Health. The committee was formed to explore questions about multivitamin/mineral supplements (MVMs) and their effectiveness. Based on available data, they concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to make a firm recommendation for or against the use of MVMs for the general population.” The panel also voiced concerns about consumers getting too much of certain nutrients from the combination of MVMs and fortified foods (i.e. fortified juices, cereals, energy bars, etc.).

My advice: let Mother Nature be your multi!

P.S. To see how your diet stacks up nutrient wise, check out the free MyPyramid Tracker tool. You can enter your food intake for the day, get detailed reports about how well you’re meeting your vitamin and mineral needs, along with suggestions for improvement (did I mention it’s free?!). Have a great weekend!

Photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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