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Should we all start the day with a multivitamin pill? There are groups of people who need vitamin and mineral supplementation more than others to stay healthy. Are you one of them? You will find various multivitamins and multiminerals with different composition and form on the market. They are available in the form of tablets, capsules, drinks and now also jelly candies. Read about multivitamins, their importance during the flu period, but also the potential risks.
In the world of supplements, you will come across products containing one nutrient, a combination of several useful substances, but also a whole range of nutrients. The term “multivitamin” covers nutritional supplements with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, but also other ingredients. It is a popular and practical way to supplement the necessary nutrients for the proper functioning of the body.  
One needs to take 13 vitamins to stay healthy. We have to obtain them from somewhere, with two exceptions – vitamin D and B3, which the body can create under certain conditions. We also bring a list of vitamins with their recommended daily intake – nutrient reference value (NRV)   :
We have not yet mentioned minerals, which are also important for humans. They are divided into major and trace, because they are found in different amounts in the human body. For a better idea, we present them in a summary table :
It would be great and ideal to take all the nutrients in adequate amounts from the diet. Try to think about your diet for the last month, for example. Have you consumed enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein sources? If you answered – yes, we sincerely congratulate you and perhaps even envy you, because a large part of society is not able to satisfy the needs with nutrients from food for various reasons. In this case, multivitamins are a practical solution for supplementing vitamins and minerals. 
Why is it important to take multivitamins?
It would be ideal to take vitamins and minerals from the diet, such as fruits, vegetables and other necessary ingredients. Is your diet really that balanced and do you control your intake of all minerals and vitamins? Multivitamins are a practical solution, you don’t have to control the amount of vitamin C or iron in your diet, because you have them listed directly on the product packaging. Among other things, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is great, but with aging our nutritional needs increase, and at the same time the body has a bigger problem absorbing nutrients.  Last but not least, a specific type of diet, such as veganism or difficulty in absorbing certain nutrients from the diet, may be the reason for the lack of nutrients.
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How to choose a multivitamin?
The offer is wide, the packaging is colorful, but their doses are different. How do you identify the best multivitamin to replenish missing nutrients? Some people prefer tablets, others will definitely prefer a drink or gummy bears. The final decision is up to you, but we still have a few tips to help you make a decision in choosing a multivitamin.  
- Read the contents of the ingredients – in addition to the number of nutrients found in the multivitamin, you should also check their content. Then decide between products that approach the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) with the amount of active ingredients. The abbreviation RDA or AI (Adequate intake) refers to the levels of nutrients that need to be taken to maintain good health. Taking supplements in excess of the recommended daily allowances could have side effects.
But how do we tell if the dose is too high?
In addition, the recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 80 mg and several nutritional supplements contain 500 or 1000 mg. In addition to the recommended daily dose, there is a tolerable upper limit (UL), the value of the highest possible dose without danger. This limit may in some cases be quite far from the recommended dose. Therefore, you can take certain vitamins and minerals at levels in excess of the RDA.
The upper limit of vitamin C is, for example, 2000 mg, of zinc 40 mg and of vitamin B6 100 mg per day. In addition, some upper limits are tied only to the supplemental form and do not exist in natural sources, such as vitamin B3, magnesium or folic acid. In other cases, you need to consider all sources, including food. Remember that the upper and recommended doses may differ between adults, children, the elderly, and possibly pregnant and breastfeeding women. And now the most important thing, some nutrients have an upper limit close to the recommended and their high intake can be dangerous for the body, such as vitamin A, E, K, but also selenium and iron.
Number of tablets vs. number of doses – the number of capsules or tablets is often stated on the packaging of products. Keep in mind that 90 tablets does not necessarily mean 90 doses. It can look good in the product spectrum, but if, for example, the daily dose is 3 tablets, the whole package will last you a month.
Price vs. quality – the price of a multivitamin can vary rapidly, so try to carefully evaluate your priorities depending on the price, so that you do not pay unnecessarily for nice packaging and ingredients that you do not care about.
Choose quality manufacturers – multivitamins may also differ from other supplements by the fact that taking them may not have such an obvious effect as, for example, in sleeping pills, where you can immediately assess their effect. You can also find out the quality of the product on the basis of the manufacturer’s reputation. Nowadays, it is not difficult to check various reviews, forums and verify overall whether the company has a “good name”.
Who should take multivitamins?
Each of us sometimes needs to supplement vitamins and minerals, whether it is after taking antibiotics, insufficient diet or for other reasons. However, there are groups of people who may be particularly in need of multivitamins.    :
Pregnant and lactating women – pregnant women are often recommended to supplement, for example, folic acid, because it reduces the risk of neural tube disorders. However, this category of women should consult their doctor about the intake of nutrients, as not all vitamins have a positive effect on them, for example, vitamin A is dangerous during pregnancy due to the possibility of congenital disorders of the fetus.
Breastfed infants (partly and exclusively).
Elderly people – they may need mainly vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.
Vegetarians and vegans – these diets may lack vitamin D, iron, zinc, calcium, or omega-3 fatty acids. Find out more in our article What nutrients vegans lack the most and how to supplement them?
Athletes – Vitamins and minerals are needed by each of us, athletes are not an exception. Vitamins and minerals are present in several processes associated with metabolism, conversion of diet into energy or with bones or collagen. According to some research, athletes should increase their vitamin intake, due to the high level of activity. On the other hand, there are no guidelines and recommendations for different intake of vitamins aimed at athletes. Supplements with vitamins and minerals will not increase your performance, but their lack may result in lower performance.
People with poor absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) or diagnosed nutritional deficiencies.
People with limited access to food
People with gastric bypass
Disadvantages and risks of multivitamins
We mentioned above that pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a specialist for the intake of vitamins and minerals because of the amount of vitamin A. In general, multivitamins are safe, but there are several potential risks  :
Increased intake of vitamin D and calcium can cause kidney stones.
High doses of vitamin B6 over a long period (a year and longer) are associated with nerve damage.
High beta carotene intake in smokers is associated with a higher risk of lung cancer. Beta carotene supplementation may affect the absorption of other carotenoids from the diet, of which there are more than 600.
High doses of vitamin E lead to a stroke and supplementation with this vitamin is associated with a higher risk of heart failure and overall mortality.
Vitamin K affects the anticoagulant effect on blood dilution.
The mineral iron is important for humans, but should be used in case of deficiency or defined need. Iron supplementation is important in the case of below-average iron levels caused by heavy menstruation or pregnancy. However, there is also evidence that excessive iron intake carries a higher risk of heart and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as colon cancer caused by increased iron stores.
Very low and high doses of selenium are dangerous. For example, increased doses are associated with several diseases – diabetes, prostate cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Mineral copper is not recommended to be supplemented because its excess is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or an increase in overall mortality and cancer.
According to a 2016 study, taking high doses of nutritional supplements containing vitamins A, E, D, C and folic acid is not always beneficial. What’s worse, it can also be bad for your health. Many people are convinced of the maximum safety of multivitamins, but the health consequences of long-term use of overdose of multivitamins are unknown. According to scientists, it is sensible to limit the intake of these vitamins to those we lack. 
Avitaminosis and hypervitaminosis
These 2 words are conecetd with the levels of vitamins in the body, the meaning and difference of which each of us should know.  
Avitaminosis – a condition caused by a lack of one or more essential vitamins.
Hypervitaminosis – a condition caused by excessive intake of one or more vitamins.
Are multivitamins or one-component supplements better?
Multivitamins are not a solution of poor lifestyle. To stay healthy, it is better to consume fresh food and a balanced diet. If you are afraid of nutrient deficiencies, try to write down your diet for one day and check the nutrient content. It is laborious, but you will have at least a small idea of how (un)balanced your diet is. You can also have a blood test done to see exactly the nutrient levels. 
Do you lack one or two nutrients? You can also buy most micronutrients, vitamins and minerals separately. So, if you are deficient in a particular vitamin, it is better to solve it in the form of a one-component product. You can also solve its deficit with multivitamins, but count on the fact that they also contain ingredients that you do not need right now. If you are unable to decide whether to choose separate supplements or a range of nutrients, consult your doctor.  
Multivitamins during the flu period
Consumption of multivitamins is often associated with the flu period, the prevention of influenza and colds, and the strengthening of immunity. The question is which components of multivitamins are best for the fight with “sneezing and runny nose”. According to the nutritional advisor, vitamins A, C and D3, as well as zinc and probiotics, are helpful for strong immunity. 
Vitamin C is probably the most popular vitamin for colds and flu. Interestingly, according to research, vitamin C is not functional as a prevention of colds. It is great during treatment, according to research it reduces the duration of colds by 24-36 hours, but there are also studies that claim that higher doses of vitamin C do not have positive effects. However, vitamin C can be beneficial in preventing colds for people with demanding training or those who have been exposed to cold weather.  Learn more about supplements that will help you with flu and colds in the article – Which supplements can help you with the flu and cold?
Zinc supplementation helps reduce the symptoms of a cold. A 2016 study states that zinc deficiency weakens the immune system, which reduces the ability to fight infections. According to a 2011 survey, sick respondents who took zinc had a shorter course of a cold and at the same time their symptoms were less severe.   
If you want to support your health, intestinal bacteria in probiotics, echinacea, or garlic and ginseng can also help you.   If you want protection against colds and flu, try to focus on multivitamins containing these components. Certain studies prove their importance, but they do not guarantee that you will definitely not get sick. Want to know more about the importance of probiotics? Read the article – Probiotics: the importance of beneficial bacteria for the immunity and general health of athletes.
Multivitamins are a practical way to supplement vitamin and mineral levels. However, this does not mean that each of us should use them for a long time. There are groups of people for whom they are more important. Nevertheless, they help you get the necessary nutrients during the flu period, but they are not a miracle for all diseases. Therefore, it is still true that the ideal source of nutrients is diet. But who in today’s hectic time has time to thoroughly check the nutrient content of the diet? In this case, multivitamins will help you. However, do not buy the first product you find, but carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of the product. We hope that we have once again enriched your knowledge and that you have learned everything important about multivitamins. Do you want your friends to know about this topic? Feel free to support the article by sharing.
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