Experts say there's very little difference in vitamin needs between men and women, with the exception of iron. Health professionals note that men generally don't need more than 8 mg of iron a day, which is easy to get from diet alone. However, premenopausal women often need iron because they lose it monthly during menstruation, so men's and women's multivitamin formulas often differ in iron content. Even though calcium recommendations are the same for both men and women ages 19 to 50 at 1,000 mg, most men's multis contain less calcium than those marketed for women. Typically, men's multivitamins contain only 200 to 250 mg of calcium.
Centrum Silver Men 50+ (*Est. $9 for 100 tablets) doesn't contain iron and is recommended by at least one respected men's health source for what it does contain -- 15 other antioxidants, including lycopene, lutein and selenium. Despite this product being marketed toward adults over 50, it's a good all-around multivitamin for men of any age. Unlike most men's vitamins tested, Centrum Silver doesn't exceed the UL for niacin; neither does One-A-Day Men's Health Formula (*Est. $19 for 250 tablets). As far as price is concerned, Centrum falls somewhere in the middle in a comparison of daily costs for vitamins specifically aimed at men. Centrum Silver Men 50+ contains 220 mg of calcium, 500 international units (IU) of vitamin D and 55 mcg of selenium.
Target's store brand, Up&Up Men's Daily Multivitamin (*Est. $7.50 for 210 tablets), also contains no iron. In a previous ConsumerLab.com test, it was the only men's multi that didn't exceed the UL for any nutrient. It was also shown to contain the nutrients listed on the label, dissolve properly and not contain excess amounts of lead. Up&Up is much cheaper than other top-rated men's multivitamins, and experts agree that store brands work just as well as the pricier name brands. The Up&Up Men's Daily Multivitamin contains 210 mg of calcium, 400 IU of vitamin D and 105 mg of selenium. Although it was our Best Reviewed pick in 2011, that's no longer the case because it isn't listed in ConsumerLab.com's most recent report.
GNC Mega Men Multivitamin (*Est. $26 for 180 tablets) contains no iron and has 100 percent or more of most recommended nutrients in a two-tablet serving. However, it contains only 200 mg of calcium vs. the 1,000 mg recommended for adult males, and 100 mg of magnesium vs. the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of 400 to 420 mg for adult males, based on age. GNC's Mega Men includes an "antioxidant fruit and vegetable blend" containing broccoli, spinach, apple, kale and other fruit powders, but there's no evidence that it does any good. It also contains fish ingredients, so it's not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
The GNC Mega Men multi passes ConsumerLab.com's latest test, with the caveat that it contains more than the upper tolerable limit for niacin, also known as vitamin B3. Niacin is water-soluble, so excess amounts are flushed out of the body, but high doses can cause a flushing or tingling of the face, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Excess niacin isn't unique to GNC's multi; 33 of the 38 products tested by ConsumerLab.com contain more niacin than stated on the labels. GNC Mega Men also contains 3,333 percent of the daily value (DV) for thiamin and 2,941 percent DV for riboflavin. On a positive note, this multi gets high marks from 20 reviewers at Amazon.com, some of whom report having more energy. Others say the supplements are overpriced and the large pills can be hard to swallow.
One-A-Day Men's Health Formula (*Est. $19 for 250 tablets) is another men's multivitamin without iron. It doesn't provide 100 percent of all nutrients -- including vitamin E, vitamin K, biotin, calcium and magnesium -- but does contain 700 IU of vitamin D, which exceeds the new guidelines released in November 2010. It also includes 157 percent DV of selenium, which Bayer touted in the past as potentially reducing the risk of prostate cancer. One men's health magazine recommends it as a good choice, and its cost per day is low compared to other men's vitamins. One-A-Day Men's Health Formula contains gelatin derived from animal sources, so it isn't suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
In 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sued Bayer over the prostate benefit claims made on One-A-Day Men's Health Formula labels. The consumer advocacy group says there's no evidence to support a link between selenium and prostate cancer prevention. In a long-term study of selenium and vitamin E dubbed the SELECT trial, these nutrients were shown not to prevent prostate cancer. In fact, the study ended early in 2008 because researchers were concerned that the high doses of selenium led to diabetes in study participants. Bayer agreed to drop the prostate cancer claims and pay a $3.3 million settlement based on litigation filed in Oregon, California and Illinois in 2010. One-A-Day Men's Health Formula is included in the latest round of independent tests and is approved. User reviews at Amazon.com are generally positive, although a popular complaint is that the uncoated tablets can be hard to swallow.
Natural vitamins contain no artificial colors, sweeteners or dyes, and they're typically more expensive than other multis. New Chapter Organics Every Man's One Daily (*Est. $12 for 24 tablets) is a vegetarian formula that meets 100 percent of the DV for several nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, selenium and zinc. However, the tablets contain only 15 mg of calcium -- far less than the RDA of 1,000 mg -- and 5 mg of magnesium. Even so, Better Nutrition magazine names New Chapter Organics Every Man's One Daily one of the best supplements of 2010. "Packed with organic ingredients from superfoods, including nutrient-rich broccoli and kale, these one-a-day formulas are perfect as the foundation of a healthy nutrition program," editors say.
The New Chapter Organics men's multi rates highly at Amazon.com, where more than 50 reviews average to give it 4 stars out of 5. Users like that the multivitamin doesn't contain excessive amounts of nutrients, and several say it's easy on the stomach and doesn't leave a bad aftertaste.
Another popular brand of natural multivitamins is Rainbow Light, whose Men's One Multivitamin (*Est. $7 for 30 tablets) is claimed to be the "number one selling natural men's multivitamin." However, it contains more than the DV for several nutrients, including 1,667 percent DV of vitamin B1, 1,471 percent DV of vitamin B2 and 1,250 percent DV of vitamin B6. Because cereals and breads are fortified with B vitamins, experts say there's no reason to take more than the DV in a multi, although higher levels of B vitamins within reason won't hurt you. Like most men's multivitamins, Rainbow Light contains small amounts of calcium and magnesium. While reviewers at Amazon.com like that Men's One is free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, a few report unpleasant side effects such as headaches and mood swings. This Rainbow Light formula is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.