The best multivitamins for men, what to look for
No matter how healthy you are, how much exercise you get and how well you eat, there is always a chance that you’re missing something - a little nutritional blind spot, if you will. This is why many people choose to take a multivitamin, as a way to fill in any gaps you might be missing. They are especially useful for people with restricted diets, those with conditions such as celiac disease which impair the absorption of certain nutrients, or people who take certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (Fairfield and Fletcher, 2002).
Whilst all bodies require similar nutritional intakes to remain healthy, men need different concentrations of certain vitamins and minerals to women. Let’s take a look at what men need to consider when choosing a multivitamin to suit their needs.
What should men consider when looking for multivitamins?
Studies have shown that supplementing with a multivitamin can have a positive effect on mood, alertness and an overall increase in feelings of wellbeing in men, particularly those over the age of 50 (Harris et al., 2011).
Vitamin A: Vitamin A has a tendency to be lacking in men’s diets (Prattala et al., 2006). Vitamin A is important for your brain, eye and skin health, as well as your immune function. A lot of people have trouble converting the available source, beta-carotene, into the active source, retinol. This means that a lot of people are left with the risk of deficiency, and with men getting less from their diets and having a higher recommended daily intake, supplements containing vitamin A can often be desirable (Huang et al., 2018).
Vitamin B12: B12 is vital for everyone. It is pivotal in the creation of healthy red blood cells, DNA and energy production. Absorption of B12 can be affected by a number of external factors, and it’s an essential nutrient which means that we can’t create it ourselves: we have to get it from our diet. It’s also not stored in our body, as the body excretes any B12 that it doesn’t use, so a consistent supply is important to prevent deficiency. Age is a primary factor in our ability to absorb B12, with deficiency being particularly common in older men. This is why any multivitamin should contain B12 (Marchi et al., 2020).
Vitamin D: In the summer months, we can usually get all the Vitamin D we need from sunlight, but having a multivitamin can help to keep us healthy even through the winter months. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, is vital for our immune systems and combats the symptoms of depression (Martens et al., 2020). Older men are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency, so it is wise for men over the age of 50 to take a supplement all year around (Kweder and Eidi, 2018).
Vitamin K2: As Vitamin D absorption declines with age, using a multivitamin which also contains Vitamin K2 is important, as one of its primary functions is to aid in the absorption of Vitamin D and calcium. There is also evidence which suggests that K2 may have a beneficial effect on heart health, especially with high risk individuals (van Ballegooijen and Beulens, 2017). This is particularly relevant for men, who are at a greater risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than women, and may benefit from a multivitamin containing K2. Studies have also shown that those who take a multivitamin may benefit from a reduced risk of heart attacks. (Holmquist et al., 2003)
Selenium: Selenium is a very powerful antioxidant which helps to protect heart and thyroid health, as well as playing important roles in maintaining the health of our respiratory systems and preventing cognitive decline. In men, it is particularly important for fertility, as it helps to improve sperm motility and quality (Moslemi and Zargar, 2011)
Zinc: Men have a higher recommended intake for zinc than women and, like vitamin A, studies have shown that men often miss out on getting enough zinc from diet alone (Prattala et al., 2006). Zinc is an incredibly important mineral for the body as it helps to support our immune system and aids the body in breaking down macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and proteins) for energy. However, the human body is incapable of storing zinc, which means that we need to make sure we are getting enough each day. This is especially relevant for older men, as levels of zinc absorption tend to decline as we age, with much lower levels found in older people (Prasad, 2008).
A note on Iron: People who were assigned male at birth don’t lose blood monthly via menstruation and therefore have a lower requirement for this mineral than people who were assigned female at birth. Men typically have a lower risk of developing anaemia which means that multivitamins with a lower iron content are more suitable (National Institutes of Health, 2022).
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National Institutes of Health (2022). Office of Dietary Supplements - Iron. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/.
Marchi, G., Busti, F., Lira Zidanes, A., Vianello, A. and Girelli, D. (2020). COBALAMIN DEFICIENCY IN THE ELDERLY. Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious Diseases, 12(1), p.e2020043. doi:10.4084/mjhid.2020.043.
Kweder, H. and Eidi, H. (2018). Vitamin D deficiency in elderly: Risk factors and drugs impact on vitamin D status. Avicenna Journal of Medicine, 8(4), p.139. doi:10.4103/ajm.ajm_20_18.
Fairfield, K.M. and Fletcher, R.H. (2002). Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults. JAMA, [online] 287(23), p.3116. doi:10.1001/jama.287.23.3116.
Prasad, A.S. (2008). Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells. Molecular Medicine, [online] 14(5-6), pp.353–357. doi:10.2119/2008-00033.prasad.
Harris, E., Kirk, J., Rowsell, R., Vitetta, L., Sali, A., Scholey, A.B. and Pipingas, A. (2011). The effect of multivitamin supplementation on mood and stress in healthy older men. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 26(8), pp.560–567. doi:10.1002/hup.1245.
Holmquist, C., Larsson, S., Wolk, A. and de Faire, U. (2003). Multivitamin Supplements Are Inversely Associated with Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men and Women—Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program (SHEEP). The Journal of Nutrition, [online] 133(8), pp.2650–2654. doi:10.1093/jn/133.8.2650.
Prattala, R., Paalanen, L., Grinberga, D., Helasoja, V., Kasmel, A. and Petkeviciene, J. (2006). Gender Differences in the Consumption of meat, Fruit and Vegetables Are Similar in Finland and the Baltic Countries. The European Journal of Public Health, [online] 17(5), pp.520–525. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckl265.
Martens, P.-J., Gysemans, C., Verstuyf, A. and Mathieu, and C. (2020). Vitamin D’s Effect on Immune Function. Nutrients, 12(5), p.1248. doi:10.3390/nu12051248.
Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D. and Zheng, S. (2018). Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Journal of Clinical Medicine, [online] 7(9), p.258. doi:10.3390/jcm7090258.
van Ballegooijen, A.J. and Beulens, J.W. (2017). The Role of Vitamin K Status in Cardiovascular Health: Evidence from Observational and Clinical Studies. Current Nutrition Reports, 6(3), pp.197–205. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0208-8.
Moslemi, M.K. and Zargar, S.A. (2011). Selenium–vitamin E supplementation in infertile men: effects on semen parameters and pregnancy rate. International Journal of General Medicine, p.99. doi:10.2147/ijgm.s16275.