Every day I do my best to eat a heart-healthy diet, avoid stress, get some exercise, and steer clear of toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, prescription drugs, and radiation. Yet, I still take a daily multivitamin as part of my heart health foundation program—and I suggest that you do the same.
Need more incentive? A study published in The Journal of Nutrition, which involved 18,530 male physicians aged 40 and older, found that long-term use of a daily multivitamin protected against cardiovascular disease. Men who took multivitamins for at least 20 years had a significantly lower risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes, and death.
That’s certainly good news for men who are already taking a multi. If you are not one of them, it’s never too late to start. Multivitamins help fill nutrient gaps that occur in the best of diets from time to time—and on a daily basis in the average American diet.
These supplements simply provide the essential vitamins and minerals that are required for robust health—and benefits go far beyond heart health. A good multivitamin also supports your immune system, bone strength, brain function, eye health, energy, stamina, and more.
What to Look for in a Multivitamin
So, what is a good multivitamin for men?
First, it should contain more than the meager RDAs of key vitamins and minerals.
This will require taking more than one tablet or capsule per day because optimal doses of key vitamins and minerals cannot fit in just one. The daily dose of the multivitamin I take, for example, is three tablets.
Second, it should include—at a minimum—the following nutrients:
- B-complex vitamins: Certain B vitamins are important because they help lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages the arteries and the brain. Your multi should contain at least 25 mcg of B12 (preferably the methylcobalamin form), 40 mg of B6, and 167 DFE of 5-MTHF (the most bioactive form of folate).
- Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, and other antioxidants help stave off oxidative stress, which is an underlying factor in heart disease and most other chronic health challenges. Make sure the antioxidant levels in your multi exceed the RDAs.
- Vitamin D: A high-quality multivitamin should include a minimum of 25 mcg (1,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per day. You may require more, depending on your vitamin D blood level. Talk to your doctor about testing, and take enough to maintain a blood level of 50–75 nmol/L.
- Minerals: Magnesium, chromium, and selenium are among the most important minerals for your cardiovascular system, but for optimal health you need the full gamut of essential minerals—and in the best-absorbed forms. Stay away from multivitamins with iron. Iron overload, or hemochromatosis, is very hard on your heart and other organs, and even a modestly elevated iron level is linked with an increased risk of heart disease. Plus, elevated iron is much more common in men than low iron. This means you must read multivitamin labels carefully, as many brands contain iron.
Beyond the Basics
Most multis include all of these basic nutrients, albeit in different forms and wildly varying amounts. Some high-quality multivitamins that target certain populations contain additional ingredients that address common health problems specific to that group.
For example, a children’s multivitamin may include DHA, an omega-3 essential for brain development. A women’s formula might contain natural compounds that enhance female hormonal balance and urinary health.
A men’s multi is likely to have ingredients that support the prostate, since the majority of men experience symptoms of age-related prostate enlargement as they get older. This means including higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals that confer prostate protection, lower amounts of nutrients that could cause prostate problems, and perhaps a few beneficial botanicals.
For optimal prostate health, men need higher levels of three key vitamins: zinc 20 mg, selenium 100 mcg, and vitamin E 134 mg. Just as important, men should take lower doses of calcium because studies have linked a high calcium intake with an increased risk of prostate cancer. I recommend no more than 150 mg per day in your daily multi and less than 2,000 mg a day from all sources.
Botanicals that enhance prostate health and may be included in some advanced men’s multivitamins include lycopene and extracts of stinging nettle, flower pollen, and pumpkin seed.
“You’re Only as Healthy as You Feel”
One of the greatest benefits of multivitamins is they make you feel better. In a 2020 study published in BMJ Open, Harvard researchers analyzed detailed health questionnaires of more than 20,000 men and women, then compared the “self-reported overall health” of those who took multivitamin and mineral supplements with those who did not. Multi users reported 30% better overall health than non-users, despite no apparent differences in clinically measurable outcomes.
The researchers concluded that people who take multis have a “positive expectation that multivitamin use leads to better health outcomes... multivitamin and mineral users intrinsically harbor more positive views regarding their health.”
This is incredibly important. Your emotions play a major role in your health and well-being, and a positive attitude is clearly linked with better health. To quote an old movie line, “You’re only as healthy as you feel.”