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Man with beard in chambray shirt taking vitamins with a glass of water.

Can a Man Take a Women’s Multivitamin?

Ensuring we receive optimal levels of essential nutrients through diet alone can be challenging, and a quality multivitamin can be one of the most convenient and effective ways to address nutritional gaps.   

Busy lives make the ease and all-in-one wellness benefits of a multivitamin an obvious choice when it comes to making sure we get the nutrition we need amid packed schedules, quick  meals, and even processed foods. But with multis touting themselves as specially designed for men or women, how different are they, really? 

Are supplements formulated specifically for women safe and effective for men? This Men’s Health Month, let’s explore: Can a man take a women’s multivitamin? 

What’s in a Women’s Multi?

When designed specifically for women, a multivitamin is generally formulated to address health goals and concerns unique to the experience of those assigned “female” at birth. Key goals often include supporting osteoporosis, breast health, reproductive health, and healthy hair, skin, and nails. Higher levels of nutrients to support these needs are factored into women’s multivitamins during formulation. 

Calcium and magnesium are commonly included to support bone health, as well as essential vitamins, along with other essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support immunity, energy levels, glowing skin, healthy hair, and full body wellness.

While most essential vitamins and minerals are also included in multivitamins formulated for men, one mineral in particular should be avoided: iron. Due to historically higher nutritional requirements, you’ll often find iron in a woman’s multivitamin to support reproductive health challenges. However for men, studies have shown links between high iron levels and a number of health risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include conditions of the liver, pancreas, and heart. More recently, studies have suggested this may also be the case for women, owing to the recommendation that women should only supplement with iron when found to be anemic. And because it can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, like calcium, iron should be taken separately from a multivitamin.      

Women’s multivitamins may also include botanical ingredients like red clover that help support concerns unique to women, such as imbalanced hormones, symptoms of menopause, or irregular menstrual cycles. While there doesn’t appear to be evidence of adverse risks in men taking botanicals like red clover, there doesn’t seem to be evidence of benefits for men either.

What’s in a Men’s Multivitamin?

Like women’s multivitamins, multis designed specifically for men are formulated to address their commonly gendered health concerns and goals including cardiovascular, prostate, and sexual health. While they contain similar essential vitamins and minerals as women’s multis, they may be formulated with higher or lower levels of certain nutrients based on sometimes differing recommended daily intake (RDI) amounts for men and women. However, while it is suggested that men need higher levels of certain nutrients, this is based in part on the assumption that the sex we are assigned at birth determines our muscle mass, and that the male body will tend to be more muscular than the female body. 

Higher levels of most nutrients may not necessarily be warranted for men or women, with many nutrient requirements looking very similar, and more than half of micronutrients requiring identical amounts for both men and women. Iron and zinc are the only two micronutrients that have somewhat different nutritional requirements. Adult men are advised to obtain a lower amount of iron than adult women (8mg vs. 18mg). On the other hand, adult women are advised to obtain less zinc than adult men (8mg vs. 11mg). 

Men’s multis are often packed with high levels of B-vitamins to support heart health, like B6, B12, and folic acid. These vitamins help to reduce certain risk factors of cardiovascular health, such as homocysteine, an amino acid which can spike when B-vitamins are deficient. Additionally, a multivitamin formulated for men may specifically contain nutrients designed to support greater performance, energy, and endurance, such as electrolytes.     

Prostate health is commonly supported in men’s multis with lycopene, a powerful plant-based antioxidant, and saw palmetto, a botanical shown to be effective in supporting men’s prostate, urinary, and sexual health, as well as libido.   

Key Nutrients for Men 

Every multivitamin, regardless of who it is geared toward, should contain essential nutrients such as fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and water soluble vitamins (C, B-complex). Key minerals to look for include calcium and magnesium, and trace minerals zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, and chromium. 

Of course, multivitamins– and all supplements– are intended as just that: supplements to the nutrition we receive through our diets. Prioritizing nutrient-rich foods should always be the primary approach to wellness, with multivitamins providing an excellent avenue to bridging any nutritional gaps. 

For men, three of the key nutrients to prioritize in a multivitamin and in a meal plan include omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and collagen-boosting vitamins and amino acids.

Omega-3s are “healthy fats” known to support well being at a cellular level, helping every single cell in our body function optimally. They’re especially beneficial for heart and brain health and support the eyes and endocrine system.

Try this: Fire up the broiler for this delicious mackerel with crushed potatoes and oregano and reach for a supplement packed with high quality fatty acids. Bonus tip: A premium men’s multi will often contain not only omega-3s, but omega-6s and omega-9s as well. 

Magnesium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that’s critical for healthy nerves, bones, teeth, blood sugar, organs, and muscles. It also helps to regulate the levels of many other crucial nutrients in the body, like calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, and helps to keep energy levels up. 

Try this: Work more magnesium into your meal plan by adding this spicy chicken fried quinoa into your rotation, and select a men’s multivitamin with at least half your RDI (approximately 400-420mg for men). 

Collagen-boosting Nutrients. Collagen, composed of amino acids (or peptides), accounts for 30% of the protein in our bodies and supports our skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Because collagen production begins to slow as we enter adulthood, and breaks down at a more rapid pace, it’s vital that we fill our diets with boosting nutrients to help us naturally create this protein. 

Try this: When selecting a men’s multi, look for collagen-supporting nutrients such as pantothenic acid and vitamin C, which help to stimulate collagen production. And, next time you hit the gym, add a scoop of collagen peptides to your favorite post-workout smoothie.

So, can a man take a women’s multi? So long as it doesn’t contain risky nutrients for men (looking at you, iron), it’s unlikely to be harmful. But it may not be helpful in every way you’re hoping for, either. 

Keeping an eye out for nutrients that are vital for your specific health and wellness goals, regardless of gender, is the most important consideration when selecting your multivitamin. If you’re looking for uniquely male benefits from your multi, like promoting a healthy prostate, a woman’s multi won’t do the trick. To skip the guesswork, opt for a multivitamin designed to fit your personal needs, eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, and of course, always check in with your healthcare provider before beginning any new dietary supplement. 

Adapted from "Can a Man Take a Woman's Multivitamin?"; Dr. David H. Rahm, 2015

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