Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Men
Experts weigh in on whether men should take vitamin and mineral supplements.
Research into supplements continues at a brisk pace. Sesso, for example, is nearing the end stages of a study on multivitamins.
One possible reason that individual supplements fared so poorly in trials – and why food sources are widely held to be superior to supplements – is because their benefits may depend on the interactions of a particular food's components. In other words, the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts. Take strawberries, a rich source of vitamin C and other nutrients, Sesso says.
"How do you replicate [a strawberry] in a supplement?" Sesso says. " You have to put it all together in order for it to be reflective, but that is difficult. To take something and replicate it perfectly – that is the challenge.”
Multivitamins, he says, might prove to be one way to gain the advantages of some of the complex interactions found in food sources.
"They potentially reflect food-based sources," Sesso says. "They have the potential to offset deficiencies [found in individual supplements]. It's a very enticing concept and it makes sense.”
Sesso estimates that his team will have "some definite results" within the next few years.
Grotto isn't waiting. He already recommends a daily multivitamin to the majority of his clients. But not without caveats.
"People need to recalibrate their expectations of what a multi can do," Grotto says. "They are supplements, not replacements. The dietetic mantra remains ‘get your nutrition from food.'"
That said, Grotto advises his male clients to pick a multivitamin that's specially formulated for men. That means one with little or no iron. Shao agrees.
"Most men get enough iron," Shao says. "The body… doesn't have a good way of getting rid of excess iron.”
In addition to a multivitamin, men should consider supplementing their vitamin D and calcium intake to keep their bones strong.
"It's a misperception that osteoporosis is a women's issue," Shao says. "You want to pay close attention to calcium, especially if you are avoiding calcium.”
Grotto finds that most adults and children in his practice come up short when it comes to vitamin D. "When it comes to recommendations, multivitamins and additional vitamin D are a recurring theme," he says.
But remember: Each man's needs are his own, so you should consult a doctor or dietician to determine what's best for you.
"Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your health care provider, focusing on using supplements and any conditions you might be concerned with," Shao says.