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Multivitamin Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on April 05, 2017

Editor's note: Name brand multivitamins like Centrum, One-A-Day and GNC are still the best choices for adults, except women trying to get pregnant: in that case, look to Garden of Life. If any of these feel a bit too pricey, we found great choices, with identical ingredients, that pass muster in professional testing, but take a smaller bite out of your budget.

Centrum Silver Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Dosage - 1 tablet/day Gluten free - No Vegetarian - No

Multivitamin for adults over 50

People over 50 have a decreased ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food, and some experts advise this age group to look for a daily multivitamin containing at least 25 mcg of B12. Centrum Silver meets this recommendation, and is tested and approved by two respected organizations. It dissolves properly, lacks contaminants and contains nutrients in the amounts listed on the label. See our full review »

Buy for $14.27
One-A-Day Women's Multivitamin
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Dosage - 1 tablet/day Gluten free - No Vegetarian - No

Multivitamin for women

One-A-Day Women's Multivitamin is a good choice for any woman who has not yet reached menopause. It has the full recommended daily dosage of folic acid, 400 mcg DFE, and iron, 18 mg -- important for women who are still menstruating and could become pregnant. It's a bit shy of the full requirement for calcium, but, at 500 mg it's still a better choice than most women's supplements. See our full review »

Buy for $7.97
Garden of Life RAW Prenatal Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Dosage - 1 tablet/day Gluten free - Yes Vegetarian - Yes

Best prenatal multivitamin

If you're trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, you should be taking a dedicated prenatal vitamin, and Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal is a top-notch choice. It is verified to contain 800 mcg of folate from natural sources, 125 mg of calcium, and 18 mg of iron. It also contains ingredients that may help ease morning sickness. This multi is gluten, dairy and yeast-free and suitable for vegetarians.

Buy for $46.19
GNC Mega Men Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Dosage - 2 tablet/day Gluten free - Yes Vegetarian - No

Men's multivitamin

Professional tests verify that GNC Mega Men multivitamin contains the stated ingredients on the label. It's a good, basic supplement for men who don't have any reason to take a multi with a specific target, such as weight loss or with ingredients targeted to men over age 50. GNC Mega Men focuses on antioxidants and ingredients that claim to support heart, colon and prostate health. See our full review »

Buy for $26.99

A multivitamin may help provide missing nutrients

Millions of Americans take a daily multivitamin. Health experts agree that certain groups of people can clearly benefit from a multivitamin, especially women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. Others may not need a multivitamin because the majority of Americans get plenty of nutrients from their daily diet. However, most experts say there is no harm in taking a daily multivitamin and it might help with nutrient balance if, for example, you can't stand eating your veggies, or eat a restricted diet for whatever reason.

However, if you have any health concerns, pre-existing conditions, or take other supplements or medications, always check with your health care provider before adding a multivitamin into your regimen. Also check with your child's pediatrician before giving your child a multivitamin. We do not cover multivitamins for children because most experts say you should not give your child supplements without a specific recommendation from a health-care provider.

The FDA made an important change to its folate/folic acid recommendations

The FDA announced in July of 2016 that it was making changes to the way it measures folate, which is naturally occurring in foods, and folic acid, the synthetic form of folate. Since synthetic folate is metabolized differently than naturally-derived folate from food, synthetic folates are considered to be a higher concentration than they used to be. The new labeling takes into account both micrograms (mcg) and "dietary folate equivalents" (DFE). So, for example, if the folate levels in a supplement are exclusively from synthetic folate and currently are listed at 800 mcg, it will, in the future, be listed as 1,360 mcg DFE (the ratio is 1:1.7 for folic acid, 1:1 for naturally occurring folate). This means that, currently, almost all prenatal multivitamins with folic acid as its folate source are actually higher, sometimes much higher, than the recommended RDA for folate, in spite of what the label says. However, since these rules have not yet taken effect, the current supplements are considered to be truthful in their labeling and still pass in testing for that. These labeling changes will take effect from July of 2018 to July 2019.

While there are legitimate concerns about ingesting too much folate because it can mask other issues, that is very rare and generally happens at much higher levels of supplementation. In the meantime, the take home message is this: if you're pregnant, folate supplementation is highly recommended. Work with your doctor to find the right type and amount of folate for you.

Types of Multivitamins

Multivitamins for Adults over 50

The reason that there are so many vitamins targeting adults over age 50 is because they have different nutritional needs than their younger selves. Older adults typically need more B vitamins, especially B-12, more calcium, less iron (especially women), less folate, and may benefit from a thermogenic ingredient, which can help burn calories. Some companies even make multivitamins specifically for older men or women, with tweaks to their formulas targeting that demographic. One thing you do need to watch out for: if you take a blood thinner, vitamin K can interfere with it, so be sure to check with your doctor.

Multivitamins for Women

Experts agree: all women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin containing folate or folic acid. Even though you may not be intending to conceive, if you do, the risk of neural tube defects is greatly increased without this supplement. The recommended daily allowance  of folate for women ages 14 and up is 400 mcg DFE (which represents the FDA's newest measurements for folate as micrograms dietary folate equivalents). Multivitamins targeted at women under age 50 reflect these needs, and, in addition, often provide other nutrients, like iron, that menstruating women may lack.

Prenatal Vitamins

As noted above, all women of childbearing age should take a daily multivitamin with at least 400 mcg DFE of folate. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need even more folic acid – 600 and 500 mcg DFE, respectively. Again, these reflect the FDA's latest guidelines in measuring folate supplements, making it even more important that you discuss .  your supplement needs with your doctor.

Multivitamins for Men

Vitamins targeted at men often have formulations that specifically claim to benefit prostrate or heart health. While these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, the fact is that men can benefit from a multivitamin made for them. For one thing, men generally don't need more than 8 mg (milligrams) of iron a day, which is easy to get from diet alone, so men's formulas tend to be very low in iron.

Are multivitamins safe?

Enacted in 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) restricts the ability of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate supplements or ensure the safety of their ingredients. Under this act, the FDA is limited to collecting information on adverse side effects and to monitoring labeling claims. That means the most the FDA can do is pull a product off store shelves after a problem becomes apparent. It's up to the manufacturer to ensure that its multivitamins and supplements are safe. Under DSHEA, multivitamins don't require FDA approval, and manufacturers aren't required to register their supplements with the FDA before putting them on the market.

In an ideal world, manufacturers would be diligent about the safety of their multivitamins and truth in labeling. However, as professional testing shows, consumers need to be concerned about multivitamin quality. Among 45 products evaluated by ConsumerLab.com, 15 fail at least one test. Many don't meet the nutrient claims on the label, others improperly list ingredients.

It's not unusual for a multivitamin to exceed the upper limit (UL) for niacin and yet stay off of the "not approved" lists of most professional testing organizations. That's because niacin has thermogenic properties and is often targeted to other purposes, such as increased energy, weight loss or lowering cholesterol. However, it's important to note that niacin can cause flushing and tingling at high doses -- and more serious side effects in a small minority of the population. Again, check with your health care provider if you have any concerns. (To read more about thermogenic supplements, read our evaluation in our report on Diet Pills.)

Regardless of existing regulations, consumers should be skeptical about health claims listed on multivitamin labels. While the original provisions of DSHEA require that manufacturers make no claims about their products preventing or curing diseases, some do so anyway. Keep in mind, there are no studies to show that any supplement can prevent or cure any condition (with the notable exceptions of iodine and folic acid). The only reason for the average person to take a multivitamin is to ensure you have a full range of daily nutrients, especially if you don't eat a balanced diet.

Finding The Best Multivitamins
Our Sources
"Product Review: Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements"
"Top 10 Multivitamins"
"Multivitamins"

Choosing a multivitamin can be as difficult as swallowing a horse pill, especially with the multitude of options available. The most important factor in finding the best multivitamin is choosing one that is verified to contain the amount of ingredients that the label claims and that has been tested to be free of contaminants.

Fortunately, several sources provide good coverage of multivitamins to help narrow your choices. ConsumerLab.com is the best reviewer of multivitamins; it tests dozens of products to ensure that they dissolve properly, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and aren't contaminated with lead and other toxins. Some manufacturers pay to have their multivitamins included in the testing through ConsumerLab.com's voluntary Quality Certification Program, but those products are clearly listed in the results table and that payment does not influence the results. ConsumerLab.com's reports are available to subscribers only. Labdoor.com is another good source for laboratory testing of multivitamins. They test a number of multivitamins for label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety and projected efficacy. The multis tested are also ranked and rated against one another. Full results are available after free registration. ConsumerReports.org evaluated multivitamins in September 2010 to ensure they meet nutrient claims and dissolve properly; that report, though older, is free to the public.

User reviews are helpful for information on side effects like stomach upset, any odor or taste issues, and how easy a multivitamin is to swallow. Overall, though, when making our choices we focused our attention on accuracy in labeling to be sure that, when you do make a decision, you get what you're paying for.

Recently Updated
Multivitamins buying guide

What every best Multivitamins has:

  • Verified ingredients
  • 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of most of the essential vitamins and minerals.
  • The correct amounts of folic acid for females.

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