Harvard Health Letter

Multivitamins: Should you buy this insurance?

Studies have raised doubts about vitamins, but the multivitamin pill is still a good idea.

The daily multivitamin pill is no substitute for a good diet. But none of us is perfect when it comes to healthful eating. We may know all about the virtues of leafy green vegetables and whole grains, but convenience and cravings lead us astray. The multivitamin is partial protection from our lapses.

It's also an easy way to add surplus vitamins and minerals to our diets. By definition, vitamins are organic (carbon-based) compounds needed in only small amounts. Minerals serve a similar purpose, but are inorganic. Historically, nutrition focused on vitamin deficiencies that cause disease. But with fortification — the systemic addition of nutrients, chiefly vitamins, to the food supply — and no shortage of food, the focus changed to whether vitamins and minerals in amounts larger than we need might protect us against conditions like heart disease and cancer.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »