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Can Women Take Men’s Multivitamin? (Science-Based Research)

Tracy Thompson
Published by Tracy Thompson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 16, 2022

If you’ve just ran out of your vitamin supplements, you might be tempted to snatch a few pills from your partner.

But that doesn’t mean you should. Since men’s multivitamins aren’t designed for women, they might not be the best choice for you.

I partnered with a dietitian and researched scientific studies to discover if women can take men’s multivitamins. Here are my findings.

Quick Summary

  • Women can share specific vitamins with men but should avoid men’s multivitamins.
  • Men and women go through gender-specific situations that influence their nutrition needs.
  • Opt for gender-specific multivitamins that contain vitamins and minerals necessary for you.

Can Women Take Men’s Vitamins?

female pouring pills on her hands

Women can take some men’s vitamin supplements, but they should avoid men’s multivitamins.

Here’s the thing. Women and men do share some vitamin requirements, but not all.

For example, women and men need identical amounts of vitamins B6 and B12 [1]. So, sharing supplements that contain only these vitamins is perfectly fine.

However, sharing multivitamins may not be the best option.

Men’s multivitamins contain certain vitamins in doses that don’t align with the needs of an average female body. The amounts are either too high or too low.

The exact doses for men and women are defined through the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.

That’s why men’s and women’s multivitamins often have different formulas [2]:

“There is a rationale for having sex-specific vitamins. The recommended dietary allowances are in fact broken down into male and female, as well as age groups.” - Jeffrey B. Blumberg, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University

So, how many vitamins you need depends on both your gender and your age. That’s why women are better off taking women’s multivitamins.

Women’s Vs. Men’s Vitamins

A gender-specific vitamin supplement can better fulfill your unique needs.

As we’ve already said, these needs are largely defined by the RDAs.

But specific conditions, like pregnancy and menopause, can also affect our vitamin and mineral requirements. We’ll look at both factors in more depth.

Different Recommended Dietary Allowances

medical person writing on a paper while holding a medicine

The Food and Nutrition Board defines different Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for men and women.

The RDA tells us how much nutrients we need daily to satisfy our body’s requirements and is valid for up to 98% of the healthy population [3].

So, the chances are it will fit your needs to a T. That’s why you should follow it while taking a supplement.

However, the RDA depends on both gender and age. So, your RDA may differ from your father’s or your partner’s.

Here’s what the RDA looks like for men and women between ages 31 and 50 [4]:

  • Vitamin A — men: 900 μg per day; women: 700 μg per day
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – men: 16 mg per day; women: 14 mg per day
  • Vitamin B6 — men: 1.3 mg per day; women: 1.3 mg per day
  • Vitamin B12 – men: 2.4 μg per day; women: 2. 4 μg per day
  • Vitamin C – men: 90 mg per day; women: 75 mg per day
  • Iron — men: 8 mg per day; women: 18 mg per day

As you can see, men’s and women’s needs don’t fully overlap. So, taking men’s multivitamins may:

  • Not entirely fulfill women’s needs.
  • Lead to excessive consumption of vitamins like vitamin A, B3 (niacin), and C.

Different Nutrient Needs And Conditions

stack of vitamins getting picked by hands

Women and men are built differently and go through unique situations in life. Both of these factors dictate our vitamin needs.

For example, premenopausal women need a lot more iron than men. I have to mention iron since it’s so frequent in women’s multivitamins, even though it’s a mineral.

Men’s multivitamins aren’t likely to contain iron in doses that would be adequate for women [5].

As a result, they won’t fulfill the needs of a premenopausal woman’s body.

However, the iron quota decreases after menopause. So, postmenopausal women will need the same amount of iron as men. That’s when sharing vitamin supplements may be O.K.

But menopause isn’t the only factor that makes our needs different.

Other circumstances that might influence how much vitamin a person needs: 

  • Women need more vitamins and minerals when pregnant and breastfeeding [6].
  • Men tend to need higher doses of some vitamins because they’re larger than women.

Lastly, gender-specific multivitamins may offer protection against gender-specific conditions.

For example, men’s multivitamins usually have higher selenium and lycopene content, which may help protect against prostate cancer [7].

On the other hand, women over 50 start losing bone mass more rapidly than men. So, they may need extra calcium to maintain bone health [8] in later life.

Related Article: What To Look For In A Multivitamin?

What Should Women’s Vitamins Contain?

magnifying glass and pills

Here are the top five vitamins that women should get from supplements:

  1. Calcium: Women over 50 should increase their daily calcium intake from 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg to maintain bone health [9].
  2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium [10].
  3. Iron: Women lose iron in their menstrual period, which is why they need to replace it. Also, pregnant women need more iron — around 27 mg per day [11].

4. Vitamin C: Although women need a slightly lower amount of vitamin C than men, this vitamin is still crucial for maintaining healthy, wrinkle-free skin [12] and a strong immune system.

5. B vitamin Folate: Also known as folic acid, this vitamin helps prevent birth defects and is frequently prescribed to pregnant women [13].

Related: Can Men Take Women's Vitamins?

FAQs

Can You Overdose on Vitamins?

You can overdose on vitamins. But this only happens if you’re exceeding your RDA by a long shot for a longer time. Some of the vitamins that are known to be toxic when taken in excess are vitamins A, B, D, and E, as well as iron [14].

Can We Take Multivitamins During Periods?

Yes, you can take multivitamins during periods. In fact, it’s recommended that you do. Blood loss during periods causes you to lose iron, vitamin C, and B vitamins [15], which you can replace with a supplement.

Stick To Gender-Appropriate Vitamins

Men and women are different, so I wouldn’t recommend that women take men’s multivitamins. =

However, you probably won’t experience any side effects if you take men’s multivitamins every few months.

I’m just saying that it shouldn’t turn into a habit.

So, stick to gender-appropriate supplements whenever possible. They are more likely to suit your unique needs.


References:

  1. https://www.nap.edu/read/11537/chapter/17 
  2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/do-men-and-women-need-separate-multivitamins/ 
  3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx 
  4. https://www.nap.edu/read/11537/chapter/17 
  5. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/nutrition-womens-extra-needs
  6. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009-apr-06-he-skeptic6-story.html 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464847/  
  8. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/men  
  9. https://www.sharecare.com/health/minerals-nutrition-diet/do-need-calcium-a-woman
  10. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/za1487
  11. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/nutrition-womens-extra-needs
  12. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/ss/slideshow-benefits-of-vitamin-c-for-skin
  13. https://totalshape.com/supplements/best-multivitamin-for-women/ 
  14. https://www.flushinghospital.org/newsletter/can-you-overdose-on-vitamins/  
  15. https://abeautifulmess.com/nutrition-for-your-menstrual-cycle/

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