5 Reasons to Say Yes to a Multivitamin

Learn the benefits of taking a daily multivitamin.

If you’re among the 50 percent of Americans who don’t take a multivitamin regularly, here’s an important reason to add one to your daily routine. A study finds that guys who popped one regularly for 20 years or longer cut their risk for heart disease by 46 percent.

We know multivitamins have gotten a bad rap in recent years. And it’s true that some studies haven’t found a benefit. But plenty have, and by and large, the longer a study tracks the benefits the more benefits are revealed! And we think it’s interesting that this long-term study flew below the media’s radar, not getting the attention it deserved. We’ve added it to our top five reasons to say yes to a daily multivitamin.

  1. Lower risk for heart disease. In this study of 18,350 men from the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, those who stuck with their multivitamin habit enjoyed lower rates of life-threatening cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. They were also 14 percent less likely to need artery-clearing surgery. A 2015 study found a similar benefit for women, with a 46 percent lower risk for fatal heart disease in multivitamin takers.
  2. Cancer protection. A multivitamin reduced overall cancer risk by 8 percent in one recent study, and 18 percent for men over 70. In another study, this habit also cut women’s odds for developing colon growths called adenomas that can morph into colon cancer by 14 percent.
  3. Fewer cataracts. A study published in Ophthalmology tracked the eye health of nearly 15,000 male physicians. Half took a common daily multivitamin, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene; half had a placebo. The vitamin-takers reduced their risk of cataracts by 9 percent and of nuclear cataracts (clouding in the middle of the eye, related to aging) by 13 percent.
  4. Guard against drug-related nutrient gaps. A multi may be especially important if you’re among the millions of people who take a diuretic (a water pill), an acid-blocking proton pump inhibitor (PPI) or the diabetes drug metformin. Some types of diuretics can deplete potassium, a mineral important for blood pressure control and healthy muscle function. PPIs can reduce levels of vitamin B-12, which helps your body make red blood cells, nerve cells, and the body’s genetic material. And metformin can lower magnesium, which helps with blood pressure control.
  5. A healthy brain and spine for babies. A multivitamin with folic acid, if taken before and during pregnancy, can help women of childbearing age protect their future children from autism spectrum disorders by as much as 40 percent, and from brain and spinal cord defects and childhood cancers. Since 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking your multi daily is a good idea. If you do become pregnant, talk with your doctor about other prenatal vitamins.

Truth is, no multi can replace the natural nutrients in a healthy diet. But if your plate’s not perfect at every meal (and whose is?), a multi plus a few additional smart supplements is a great insurance policy. What we do:

Go for a basic multivitamin. Skip megadoses! Choose a multi with key nutrients (including vitamins A, C, D, E and K, as well as potassium, zinc and iodine) at levels close to the recommended daily allowance. Take half of your multi in the morning and half in the evening to keep levels of water-soluble vitamins (the ones that get eliminated when you urinate) steadier.

Take these, too. We also recommend a daily calcium (600mg) and magnesium (400mg) supplement as well as 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. Add 600mg a day of the super-beneficial omega-3 fatty acid DHA from fish oil or algal oil supplements. To cut your risk for vision loss and early forms of age-related macular degeneration and mental dysfunction, you can up your dose to 900mg of DHA along with a lutein and zeaxanthin supplement. Dr. Mike does.

Want to help lower your risk of getting cancer? The answer could be in the food you eat! Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD and the author of "Take Control of Your Cancer Risk," says there are three kinds of foods that could really help prevent cancer: garlic, fish and grapes. And what three kinds of foods should you avoid? Red and processed meats, refined grains, and alcoholic and sugary drinks. Watch the videos below to learn more about how food could be connected to your cancer risk.