There are so many different multivitamins for adults in the market that going to a pharmacy or health establishment can leave you feeling very confused. There are general vitamins as well as vitamins specifically for men, women, and men and women over a certain age. Added to that are the conflicting studies that say whether adults need multivitamins at all.
First things first: Nothing can replace a balanced diet. Multivitamins are meant to be supplements, meaning they are taken to enhance your diet and not used as your primary source of nutrients. And second, the science so far suggests that multivitamins may have some benefit but that they don’t necessarily have a huge impact on health: The Physicians’ Healthy Study II, a large-scale randomized clinical trial spanning a decade, found that there were modest reductions in cancer and cataracts.
The trouble is it may be difficult to have a balanced diet these days. You may always be on the go, with no time to cook nutritious meals and thus rely on speedy servings of food lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. Or you may be on the other extreme and adhering to a plant-based diet. In either case, supplementation may help.
The Vitamins Men Need
If you’re wondering why multivitamins are marketed for different genders and age groups, it’s because men and women of different ages have different nutrient needs. Premenopausal women, for example, need more iron, while older individuals may need more calcium.
When choosing a multivitamin for men, these are some of the vitamins and minerals you should look for:
Vitamin D. Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is important for men’s health because it helps the body absorb calcium, may help lower the risk of prostate cancer, prevent depression and other mood disorders, reduce inflammation, and help the body produce enough testosterone. It may also help control cholesterol and blood pressure levels and thus lower the risk of heart disease—some studies suggest that Vitamin D deficiency puts men at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.
It’s particularly tough to get Vitamin D from food sources, so you can try to get it naturally from the sun. Aim for 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure each day. Those who spend all day cooped up in an office or live in colder climates should consider taking a supplement.
Vitamin B12. This B-complex vitamin is good for you in a number of ways: First, it helps turn carbohydrates into fuel, which is why those who are B12-deficient may feel low on energy. Second, it helps with nervous system function, which is related to producing feel-good hormones like serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin, and which helps you stay focused. Third, it keeps your heart healthy, which is especially important for men; after all, the number one cause of death for men is heart disease. And fourth, it’s great for your skin, hair, and nails.
If you’re a meat eater, then you’re likely getting enough Vitamin B12 in your diet. But if you’re vegan or a vegetarian, you might need to top up with a supplement.
Vitamin K. Men really should embrace any vitamin that gives them a better chance against heart disease, and Vitamin K is one of those vitamins. Though Vitamin K deficiency is fairly rare, it can lead to a greater risk of heart problems. This vitamin is also important for bone health and for blood clotting.
Natural sources of Vitamin K include green vegetables and dairy products.
Magnesium. Magnesium is quite the superstar mineral. It can prevent muscle cramping, keep blood sugar in check, lower blood pressure in those who are hypertensive, prevent migraines, reduce inflammation, and help reduce anxiety and stress.
It’s available in food sources but studies suggest that today’s vegetables contain less magnesium than their forebears due to soil quality depletion. Thus, supplementation may be helpful.
Zinc. This mineral is involved in testosterone production; thus, low levels of it may be a factor in a flagging sex drive and even erectile dysfunction. Zinc is also important for wound healing and maintaining immune function.
Meat, shellfish, and legumes are some good natural sources of zinc.
Probiotics. Currently the darling of the health world, probiotics are bacteria that are good for your gut. They can help improve digestion and maintain the balance of bacteria, which can help keep your immune system healthy.
Probiotics can be found in fermented food like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. There are also vitamins that contain probiotics.
It’s best to get a picture of your current state of health by discussing it with your physician. If after improving your diet, you still find that you are deficient in some nutrients, then you can determine the best multivitamins for you.