There are many pointless gender-specific products out there, but vitamins indeed aren't one of them.
Even though a healthy diet is essential, our bodies can't absorb certain nutrients from food alone and need supplementation.
And although women's multivitamins may appear alluring, men should stay away from them. Read on to find out why.
Can Men Take Women’s Vitamins?
No, men shouldn’t take women’s multivitamins.
Vitamins should support gender-specific nutrition and have a wide range of essential fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, and water-soluble vitamins B and C.
Men and women also have different mineral needs.
The food and nutrition board claims that multivitamins should include:
These are daily requirements developed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and they help to set the nutritional guidelines in the US.
It’s a fact that vitamin needs change with the life stage, but men and women may share very similar requirements for particular nutrients.
Nevertheless, a woman's demand for calcium intake, for example, increases as she grows older because bones in the female body lose density faster than men's.
And this isn't the only difference in vitamin and mineral requirements for men and women.
There are a couple of reasons men shouldn't take women's vitamins. More on this below.
Men’s vs Women’s Vitamins
Vitamin manufacturers provide different formulas for men, women, and older adults to provide enough nutrients for a specific age or health concerns.
Here are some reasons why it’s not advisable for men to take women’s vitamins.
Protection Against Gender-Specific Conditions
Some formula for men provides more vitamins and minerals than your typical women's multivitamin.
Vitamin for men are typically higher in selenium and contains lycopene, an antioxidant nutrient which may help protect against prostate cancer and enhance overall prostate health .
On the other hand, good women's vitamins have more of the B vitamin folate, known as folic acid, which is essential for women in their childbearing age to prevent birth defects. This nutrient is typically prescribed to pregnant women.
Multivitamin formulations for women also provide more iron, suitable for pre-menopausal women with an increased need for this mineral because of the losses during their periods.
Difference in Recommended Dietary Allowance
Since the recommended dietary guidelines for many vitamins and minerals are different for men and women, making separate vitamin formulas for these genders makes sense.
Apart from needing less iron and folate, men also need many other vitamins and minerals.
Men need 900 micrograms of vitamin A, while women need much less — just 700 micrograms.
Men also need 30 more milligrams of vitamin K, 15 extra milligrams daily of vitamin C, and an additional 3 milligrams of zinc.
They also need more riboflavin, niacin, choline, thiamin, and chromium.
Distinct Nutrient Needs
Women's multivitamins contain lots of iron because ladies need higher amounts of iron in their diets.
Women who menstruate often have depleted iron levels every month.
Some women have difficulties getting those levels back up before their next period, resulting in those levels depleting even more.
This is why multivitamins formulated for women are often packed with iron.
Since men don't lose blood or menstruate regularly, they don't need the same amount of iron as women do. Taking vitamins for women would mean taking too much iron, which could lead to iron overload.
“Men can use women's multivitamins if they choose formulas that are low in or free from the mineral iron. Increased iron stores may raise the risk of coronary heart disease.” — Jody Braverman, CPT, FNS, RYT.
The same is true regarding zinc. Women’s vitamins won’t provide you with enough zinc that’s included in men’s vitamins.
Unlike women, men require much more zinc in their diets.
The body uses zinc to metabolize other essential nutrients, including protein, and to produce testosterone. And, without enough testosterone, you might face erectile dysfunction.
Women require only 8mg of zinc a day, while a man's recommended daily intake of zinc is 11mg.
So, if you consistently take a multivitamin for women and don't get enough zinc through your diet, you may not be meeting your body's total requirement for zinc.
What Should Men’s Vitamins Contain?
Men’s vitamins should contain the essential antioxidants necessary to support prostate health:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
Men's multivitamins should also have the following to promote better nerve function and provide energy:
Lastly, it should also have:
- L-arginine for healthy blood vessel tone and good sexual health
- L-glutamine to support the immune system and the musculoskeletal system
A women’s multivitamin may contain some of these nutrients, but their doses may not suit men, thus may not provide the expected health benefits.
Should Men Take Women’s Vitamins?
It happened to all of us — you forget to buy supplements, or you're in a hurry and take one from your girlfriend's or sister's vitamin pack. No biggie.
But don't practice this. Make sure you're taking the best vitamins made for men to get the most out of them and avoid potential side effects.
Grab one that’s specifically formulated to your body’s needs, and don’t forget to ask your doctor about it.