Multivitamins deliver the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal health. For women, this means compounds that support healthy hormone levels and protect your body from the oxidative damage that can occur with aging.
Compared to a men’s multivitamin, a women’s multivitamin will focus more on delivering compounds like B-complex vitamins that support female hormone levels, plus an array of both vitamins and minerals for supporting bone health, like vitamins D and K, plus calcium and selenium.
We’ve dug into the scientific research to identify the most important benefits that you can get from a multivitamin formulated specifically for women. Read on for more on these benefits, plus key pointers on optimal dosage and potential side effects.
Multivitamin for women benefits
1. If your diet isn’t as good as it could be, you might be able to benefit from a multivitamin
Women are particularly vulnerable to a number of dietary deficiencies, and they also have some unique biological characteristics that shift the amounts of vital nutrients their body needs.
2. Women tend to have a high prevalence of several nutritional deficiencies that can be addressed with multivitamins
Moreover, there is even good evidence that taking a multivitamin is directly associated with positive health benefits (1).
3. Many women are deficient in vitamin D and could benefit from a multivitamin with D3
Vitamin D deficiency is also intimately linked with calcium deficiency, and these go hand-in-hand with preventing loss of bone density as you get older.
4. Women also have higher needs for B-complex vitamins
When it comes to the health effects of micronutrient deficiencies for women, it’s not just bone or immune health that’s at risk.
Women have specific needs with regards to the vitamin B family, too, and if these aren’t met, deficiencies can be associated with a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, mood disorders and infertility.
5. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 could have negative effects on your mental health
The risk of severe depression increases two-fold in women who are deficient in vitamin B12 (4), providing evidence that nutrient intake is connected with both your physical and your psychological health.
Low levels of vitamin B12 (and high levels are homocysteine, an amino acid increased mainly with meat intake) is associated with poor cognition, dementia, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorders (5).
6. Folate (aka vitamin B9) is important for protecting DNA
Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a critical role in fertility, fetal development and DNA and RNA synthesis. A good women’s multivitamin will deliver a solid folate dosage for these reason (6).
7. Some research has found a correlation between multivitamin use and a lower risk for cancer
According to one study, taking a multivitamin with at least 400 mcg of folate can significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer in women (7).
Similar research has found that multivitamin users have lower rates of breast cancer (8).
8. Taking a multivitamin with antioxidants may help you slow the aging process
A study from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences found that women who use multivitamins have telomeres that are 5% shorter than women who don’t take multivitamins (9).
This may or may not translate into a 5% difference in “biological age,” but a reduction in the biomarkers of aging is still a solid outcome.
9. Multivitamins with antioxidants can neutralize oxidative damage
Deficiencies in the antioxidant vitamin C deficiencies have been associated with reduced brain volume and growth during utero and infancy, acceleration of brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and rapid aging (10).
10. Women have higher rates of iodine deficiency
Multivitamin for women side effects
When it comes to side effects, multivitamin supplements rarely come with side effects. The vast majority of products don’t contain any ingredients that are harmful even at fairly high doses.
Weight-loss oriented women’s multivitamins might include caffeine and other stimulants. Caffeine levels in these supplements are typically low, but they can still cause jitters or sleeplessness if you take it late at night or if you are especially sensitive to caffeine.
More is not always better when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins (especially A, E, and K) can accumulate when taken at high doses, so make sure your multivitamin doesn’t have excess levels of these vitamins.
If you are pregnant or might become pregnant in the near future, take a prenatal vitamin instead. When you are expecting, your nutrition needs change, and for your health and your baby’s health, you should opt for a prenatal vitamin instead of a more general women’s multivitamin.
Multivitamin for women dosage
When it comes to dosage, you are at the mercy of the supplement companies and their formularies.
For women, critical nutrients include vitamin D, the B vitamins, iodine, and calcium, among others. Among these, here are the critical targets to aim at:
It’s okay to exceed 100% RDV with vitamin D. The recommended intakes for vitamin D are based only on bone health, and have not been formulated with the other health benefits of vitamin D in mind. Most clinical research on vitamin D supplementation uses much higher levels than 100% RDV, which is why you’ll regularly see vitamin D levels higher than that in women’s multivitamins.
Calcium levels should be at least 25% RDV. Calcium is critical for bone strength, but beyond this level it’s hard to absorb more calcium in one shot, so it’s okay if this isn’t 100%–you likely wouldn’t be able to absorb it all anyways (usually you spread out calcium intake throughout the day with a dedicated calcium supplement).
Check to make sure any added extras are delivered at effective dosages. If the supplement includes other “extras” like fish oil or green tea extract, try to find out if these are included in dosages that are high enough to actually be beneficial. If they aren’t, you’re probably better off taking them as a separate supplement, and not as a part of your multivitamin.
Multivitamin for women benefits FAQ
Q: Should a women’s multivitamin have isoflavones?
A: Some research suggests that women experiencing menopause can see a boost in sex hormone levels and a concomitant improvement in menopause-related complaints if they take supplements that contain phytoestrogens such as soy isoflavones.
Q: How should you choose a multivitamin for women?
A: We recommend following a similar process to how we ranked our top products. First, make sure the multivitamins you are looking at don’t contain excessive fillers, binders, or coloring agents.
Then, check to see if the most important vitamins and minerals for women are included in sufficient doses. This includes calcium, copper, zinc, vitamin K, and vitamin D, as well as the B-complex vitamins.
Finally, look for markers of quality, like good manufacturing practices (GMP) certification, naturally-sourced ingredients, and highly bioavailable forms of the essential vitamins and minerals.
Q: What happens if a man takes a multivitamin for women?
A: The only reason men shouldn’t take a multivitamin for women is because the micronutrient balance hasn’t been optimized for male physiology and nutritional needs—it will still function as a fine multivitamin, and will probably outperform low-quality multivitamins for men.
There are a few ingredients men may want to stay away from, such as soy isoflavones, which are thought to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, but soy isoflavones and other phytoestrogens are only found in a few multivitamins for women.
Men would just do better to take a multivitamin for men, as they tend to need higher doses of specific nutrients for producing male sex hormones like testosterone. Check out our rankings for men’s multivitamins for more on that topic.
Q: What is the best time of day to take a multivitamin for women?
A: With so many different ingredients in a multivitamin for women, the timing is not as important as consistency.
Some multivitamins for women come in a serving size of just one capsule, in which case you should take this capsule at the same time every day.
Related: Our best women’s multivitamin picks
A multivitamin tuned specifically for women can help optimize your health, both short-term and long-term.
Compared to men, women need a higher intake of key vitamins like folate and B12, but lower intake of minerals like iron. A good women’s multivitamin will take these requirements into consideration in its formulation.
Though it’s certainly possible to get all the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet, it’s very tough to do on a regular basis, especially if you have a busy schedule.
To keep your micronutrient levels topped off when you can’t make time for an ideal diet, a women’s multivitamin is the perfect tool.