• Lynn Peters

The truth about multivitamins (and why you should stop taking them)

Your multivitamin’s been lying to you. All those sweet promises of better health could be as empty as your bank account at Christmas time, as studies have shown that you may actually be less healthy by taking them. Don’t believe me? Let me explain…

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Vitamins are great up to a point but in high doses they can actually cause genuine distress.

Vitamin C for example has a contraindications list that puts many prescription drugs to shame: diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting being a mere part of the problem.

So why not have a smaller dose? Well unfortunately the jury’s out on that one too. Many believe that multivitamins in their refined form (i.e. the high concentration pills) are so badly absorbed that you end up with little more than expensive urine The lack of regulation in the market is also not particularly enticing, to the point where you’re probably better off not taking them (Rifkin & Lazris, 2015).

Multi-vitamins have been shown to have no significant improvement in health outcome
- Rifkin & Lazris

At least it is not harming people in small doses, is it? I hear you say BUT it may be! There is evidence to suggest that people given a multivitamin are more likely to make unhealthy food decisions the same day, presumably because they think they’ve already had their quota of healthy nutrition. It’s difficult to tell whether this is correlation or causation but follow-up studies have shown results so similar that this effect has been coined the “Licensing effect” – people believe they’re entitled to be more relaxed after engaging in ‘healthy’ activities (Chiou et al., 2011)

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. General consensus amongst practitioners is that it’s far more sensible to get your nutrients from whole food sources. We’ve all heard about the 5-a-day recommendation for fruit and vegetables, but as our food’s getting less nutritious that number keeps increasing. The recommendation nowadays is closer to more than seven a day, which is a lot of veg.

The best solution to this would be to take a leaf out of Popeye’s book and eat Spinach all day. But if that’s not for you then I’d suggest some kind of greens supplement. These are basically just powdered vegetables – a great way to get your fill of antioxidants and vitamins without the side effects of refined multivitamins. This is not an exhaustive list of those available but they are ones available in the UK that I have tried.

  • Total Nutri-Greens by MyProtein

  • Pills or powdered

  • Superfood by Biotest

  • Powdered, with a mild berry taste

  • Athletic Greens

  • Powdered


RIFKIN, E. & LAZRIS, A. 2015. Vitamins and Supplements. Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks. Springer International Publishing.

CHIOU, W.-B., YANG, C.-C. & WAN, C.-S. 2011. Ironic effects of dietary supplementation illusory invulnerability created by taking dietary supplements licenses health-risk behaviors. Psychological science, 22, 1081-1086.

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