Multivitamins are a universe unto themselves, with their shiny bottles, varying prices, and sexy advertisements on television and in glossy magazines. Images include absolutely gorgeous raven-haired beauties playing tennis in their thirties, or ridiculously stunning silver haired gentlewomen who ever so gently, barefooted, kick sand on the beach with their dashing significant other.
Multivitamins promise to uplift our mood and protect against heart disease, blood disease, lung disease, and insanity (kind of?). If we take them at all we tend to take them religiously, feeling almost guilty if we forget, making a habit out of it which makes us feel safer, somehow.
But how much benefit do we really reap from taking these pills? At times they may seem expensive and we don't even want to buy more once we run out. Or we get into a funk about them, feeling that if we were taking them daily and still struggled with that nasty infection all winter, what was the point? According to one study, post-menopausal women over the age of fifty who regularly take a multivitamin are not any safer from cancer risks than their non-vitamin taking sisters.
It turns out that while multivitamins can support certain health-related functions, cancer risk is chalked up to many other influences which multivitamins are hard pressed to stave off.
To hear more on this particular study, follow the link: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6845855
Another important point is that if you're sacrificing healthy eating habits because you think you'll make up the difference of the nutrients you require to maintain your health by swallowing your vitamin religiously, think again. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats (or another form of protein if you're a vegetarian or vegan) and nuts, legumes, and some amount of healthy fats are the way to health and the benefits of these types of foods still outweigh the benefits of taking a vitamin. In addition, the United States Food and Drug Administration guidelines are being discussed as they may be in need a revision in the near future.
For a wonderful article addressing this point, follow this link: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/the-truth-about-multivitamins
This being said, there are still nutrients and benefits to be found in multivitamins. But more ingredients does not always mean it's a better product. The ones that have a good dose of calcium and vitamin D, for example, are great ones for women, as we tend to be short of these important nutrients. Also, getting sucked into the brand name, a fancy label, or a winning advertisement campaign can blind you to the benefits of a simpler type of multivitamin which may actually have more of what your body needs.
For more on this follow this link: http://www.napsnet.com/pdf_archive/76/57392.pdf
Lastly, having regular yearly checkups and discussing any health issues with your doctor could help you pinpoint which multivitamin is for you, as you can get an insight and maybe even some expert advice about your particular body's needs and requirements.
Always use a supplement in addition to following a healthy lifestyle of eating well and exercising regularly; if you aren't, no magic pill will automatically make you healthy.
Aimee Boyle is a mother, teacher and writer. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.