Should I take multivitamins?

Food and nutrition

Published on 27 February 2019
by Isabelle Huot

Are vitamin and mineral supplements really essential for our lives? This article provides the answer.


Vitamin and mineral supplements (multivitamins) are the most popular supplements among Canadians. Although they are accessible to all and appear harmless, is there any real interest in consuming them? Before answering this question, we should remember that using supplements is in no way a replacement for eating nutritious foods. Studies show that vitamins and minerals consumed as supplements are not absorbed as efficiently as those that are naturally consumed from food.


So, should we consume supplements or not?


Generally speaking, supplements are not vital since they do not provide any benefit to an individual with good nutritional habits. However, some populations or target groups may find it beneficial to supplement their intake. This could include the following categories:


  • Pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding or of childbearing age
  • Vegans
  • Elderly people
  • Infants and young children

If you are in one of these categories, consult your doctor or a nutritionist, who will be able to offer you advice about the right supplement for you.


Are there any risks?


The risks associated with the consumption of multivitamins remain low (unlike taking megadoses of isolated vitamins or minerals). While achieving recommended vitamin intake is desirable, you will not gain more benefit if you consume more than you need. Moreover, we often hear about recommendations relating to target intake. But what the population is not so familiar with is the tolerable upper intake level (UL). Target limit values are set for each micronutrient, and exceeding them could have adverse health effects. Indeed, an excess of certain vitamins, such as A and E, may entail certain risks and symptoms.


Finally, if, despite all your efforts, your diet contains few nutritious foods, it may be wise to consume multivitamin tablets to get the vitamins you need. If you decide to consume a supplement, be sure to select the right one for your needs. For example, some supplements for elderly people contain more calcium and vitamin D, and supplements for menopausal women contain less iron than those for women of childbearing age.  

Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition