Do Men and Women Need Separate Multivitamins?
Do men and women need separate multivitamins?
The popular multivitamin brand we usually buy (we're in the 50+ category) now comes in "his" and "hers" (specific versions for men and for women) as well as the gender-neutral version. Do we really need his and hers vitamins or is this just a marketing ploy to get us to spend more money by buying two different bottles of their product?
If you’re going to take a multivitamin, it makes sense to get one tailored to your age and gender, though many experts question whether you need to take a multivitamin at all.
“There is a rationale for having sex-specific vitamins,” said Jeffrey B. Blumberg, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, who serves on the advisory boards for several supplement companies. “The recommended dietary allowances,” which are the average daily amount that most people need, “are in fact broken down into male and female, as well as age groups.” Formulas for men over 50, for example, typically have no iron, since iron levels can build up over time and in older people, especially men, lead to organ damage. Formulas for seniors may also have more vitamin B12, which older people may have trouble absorbing from foods, and vitamin D.
Dr. Blumberg recommends that most people take a multivitamin as insurance that they are getting a full range of the nutrients we need, but others disagree. “They are unnecessary unless you have a medical diagnosis for which they’re required,” said Dr. Pieter A. Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “If no one needs it, how could there be one that’s better for a woman or a man?” A 2014 review by the United States Preventive Services Task Force found that there was not enough evidence to recommend for or against multivitamins for the prevention of heart disease or cancer.
There is wide agreement that some people should take a daily multivitamin, including pregnant women and nursing mothers, people on a heavily restricted diet, and those with a known nutrient deficiency. Another point of agreement: supplements cannot replace diet. It’s best to get as many of your nutrients from foods as possible. “We should think of this as a safety net, definitely not a replacement for a healthy diet,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an email.
As to the pricing issue: If you do decide to take a multivitamin, whether you end up paying more for his or her varieties will depend on how the manufacturer prices them compared to general formulas. But either way, you’ll each be taking the same total number of vitamin pills.