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Multivitamin vs Individual Vitamins
What’s the Difference?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 25, 2021

Taking one multivitamin a day is much more convenient than taking a bunch of different pills.

However, multivitamins aren’t suitable for everyone. Some people have vitamin deficiencies or practice restrictive diets that require them to take more of certain vitamins.

So, let’s see which is better — multivitamins or individual ones? Read on to discover!

8 Common Individual Vitamins and Minerals

Doctors typically prescribe individual vitamin supplements or minerals to treat or prevent specific nutrient deficiencies.

Some of the most common mineral supplements prescribed individually are:

1. Iron

A woman having a headache

Iron deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world.

A doctor may recommend supplements to treat this mineral deficiency that causes anemia.

Iron deficiency is also linked to restless leg syndrome, thinning hair, and recurrent Candida infection.

On the other hand, high levels of iron can cause toxicity, so be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage.

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2. Magnesium

This mineral has a beneficial laxative effect and enhances a good night's sleep.

There are a couple of different magnesium salts with different absorptions, and your doctor will prescribe the best one for you.

Common fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins that are prescribed together:

3. Folic Acid

An exhausted anemic woman

Doctors recommend taking individual folate supplements before and during early pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects and congenital disabilities [1].

Lack of this supplement is also linked to a specific form of anemia, often accompanied by vitamin B12 deficiency.

4. Vitamin B12

This vitamin is prescribed in high doses to treat pernicious anemia, which develops when your immune system attacks the stomach cells that produce the factor needed for vitamin B12 absorption.

5. Vitamin B6

B6 is very popular among women with premenstrual tension and people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome . However, the evidence for the vitamin’s effectiveness is inconsistent.

6. Vitamin C

A person drinking a lemonade

Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, even though the cases of the illness are sporadic.

Still, Vit C is one of the most popular essential vitamins supplements that people consume in high doses to boost their immune systems.

As a water-soluble vitamin, it's safe, but long-term use of high doses can cause indigestion.

7. Vitamin D

This is recommended especially during winter months when people don't get enough UV light to synthesize their supplies.

Even when the sun is shining, you'll probably need to take a single vitamin D since it's hard to absorb it from food [2].

“Frequent, moderate exposure to the sun is healthful, but prolonged exposure can be dangerous. It is important to note that when someone stays in the sun so long that their skin burns, they have a higher risk of developing skin cancer." — Amanda Barrell, health and medical education journalist.

8. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is typically taken with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, to regenerate vitamin E once it has acted as an antioxidant.

Individual Vitamin Dosage

Different vitamins scattered around

There's no one perfect dosage that would suit everyone when it comes to taking single vitamins and minerals.

The best thing to do is consult your doctor, who will give you exactly what you need according to your life stage, nutritional deficiencies, and health conditions.

People with a severe deficiency may need higher doses of individual supplements, while certain diseases may require more or less of single vitamins.

Pros and Cons of Taking Single Nutrient Vitamins

Even though the general consensus is that multivitamins are better, sometimes you’ll need to take single vitamins instead or complement your multivitamins.

Pros
  • Better for addressing specific nutrients and deficiencies
  • Ideal for supplementing specific medical conditions
Cons
  • The only con is that you need professional advice to combine them and avoid taking too much, too little, or cause side effects from interaction with your meds.

Taking Multivitamins

Different kinds of multivitamins compressed at each other

As the name suggests, multivitamins are all the necessary vitamins and minerals packed into one convenient tablet or pill.

A multivitamin tablet usually contains vitamins A, B, C, D, and K.

However, different brands may create different blends that may contain more vitamins, including vitamin E and different B complex vitamins.

Essentially, you'll probably get all the vitamins your body needs in a multivitamin supplement.

Some brands create supplement blends containing vitamins and minerals designed to maintain a particular body part or function.

Here are some of the common multivitamin combination:

  • Potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins - These are often combined to maintain normal blood pressure and reduce tiredness and fatigue.
  • Selenium and vitamins A, C, E - This blend is very popular in antioxidant blends as they protect cells from the damaging particles (free radicals) associated with premature aging.
  • Antioxidants, B vitamins, carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), beta carotene, and zinc - This combination are frequent ingredients in blends that support eye health. We recommend you opt for one of the best ZMA supplements.
  • Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and boron - They are combined in multivitamins designed to support bone health, like in K2&D3 supplements. Moreover, calcium is typically combined with vitamin D to aid its absorption.

Also read: The best multivitamins for vegans

Multivitamin Dosage

As with taking vitamins individually, you need to consult a doctor and follow their instructions.

Pros and Cons of Taking Multivitamins

Pros
  • Taking a multivitamin is much more convenient than taking many vitamins.
  • You can get a high concentration of vitamins and minerals in one single pill.
  • Taking a multivitamin should cover all the bases and be more cost-effective than multiple supplements.
Cons
  • You can’t target specific deficiencies or health issues with a multivitamin.

When to Use Individual Vitamins vs Multivitamins?

Top view of different kinds of vitamins

You should use individual vitamins only if you have a specific vitamin deficiency.

In all other situations, taking multivitamin or blended dietary supplements is recommended.

Using a multivitamin is better for their absorption as they support each other and help one another function better and deliver the best results.

Needless to say, they should be prescribed by a doctor after running the required tests.

Multivitamins vs Specific Vitamin: The Final Verdict

No matter how healthy you eat, there are some nutrients you can’t absorb from food.

Multivitamins are a great way to cover all the basics and take all the nutrients your body needs.

However, if you have a specific vitamin deficiency, taking single vitamin supplements may be more efficient.

No matter what, you should always consult your doctor for proper prescription.

What’s your experience with multivitamins and individual vitamins? Share them in the comments.

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References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12947458/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326167

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