Did you know that the first multivitamins came into being thanks to World War II? And all because the government noted that one-third of American men called to arms suffered from poor nutrition. I know, I was surprised to learn this, too.
The first multivitamin products were sold in 1943. Back then, the list of vitamins didn’t include much — just vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, D, calcium, and iron. In time, that list expanded and started diverging into different sets based on age, gender, and health needs.
Women’s multivitamins came into vogue at the same time that high-dose vitamin supplements became widely available. Around the 1970s, some multivitamin companies started including folic acid in their products.
By the time the 1980s rolled out, multivitamins containing folic acid were marketed towards pregnant women — thus giving birth to prenatal vitamins. This is all thanks to an earlier study that suggested taking folic acid would help lower pregnant women’s chances of giving birth to babies with serious birth defects.
Women’s multivitamin products grew over the years. Gone are the days when prenatal vitamins were all we would have had to choose from. Today, our multivitamins can even be divided into those for premenopausal, pregnant, breastfeeding, and menopausal women.
I’m a personal trainer, so it’s natural for me to take health, fitness, and vitamin supplements very seriously. When it comes to women’s supplements, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of pill.
Your multivitamin needs will depend on your age, your dietary habits, your health needs, and your fitness level. Still, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help you navigate publicly available information about women’s multivitamin products.
The Office on Women’s Health under the HSS recommends the following vitamins for women:
Doctors and researchers agree: iron and folic acid are the two major vitamins and minerals for women. Women with heavy menstrual flows especially would benefit from multivitamins containing iron. Take note, though, that the recommended daily allowance for iron is only 18 mg for anyone not pregnant and even less at just 9 mg for breastfeeding moms.
Folic acid continues to be a tried and true vitamin for women. While those of you who are pregnant or breastfeeding have higher folic acid recommendations, any woman older than 18 should generally take multivitamins with folic acid.
Everyone benefits from taking B vitamins. But if you’re in the post-menopause stage already, they become even more important. Vitamins B6, B9 or folic acid, and B12 will help with energy production, protein metabolism, cognitive development, and red blood cell production.
Vitamin D is popularly known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Together with calcium, these two are important vitamins for strengthening bones and boosting overall bone health. This is essential for us women since we’re more likely to have osteoporosis when we go through menopause.
As with most things health-related, it’s best to talk with a healthcare professional or dietician to make sure you get exactly what your body needs. Supplements can help achieve optimal health but only when properly taken. Always remember that too much of anything becomes a bad thing.