Are Multivitamins Regulated By The FDA?

Correction 04/05/22: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. However, the FDA does have a process for regulating dietary supplements before and after they're sold to the public.

Many people take multivitamins. While these supplements are considered generally safe for most people to take, there are a few things you should know before you start taking them. The first is that multivitamins are not very effective (via Johns Hopkins University). While they shouldn't cause harm when taken in small doses, there is little evidence to suggest that taking a multivitamin will greatly benefit your health.

If you still want to take a multivitamin, you'll run into another hurdle when finding the best product to buy. The FDA generally regulates dietary supplements in the same way they regulate food (not drugs) and thus they don't review supplements for their safety and effectiveness before they're marketed to the public. The manufacturers and distributors are ultimately responsible for ensuring a supplement is safe for public consumption (per the FDA). Additionally, manufacturers can't claim that their supplements cure or treat diseases and ban the use of certain words that may mislead consumers. The FDA can also fine, penalize, and take products off the market if deemed they have unsafe claims, according to mindbodygreen.

Should I take a multivitamin?

Most people probably don't need to take a multivitamin. Eating a well-balanced diet will provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to be healthy (via Penn Medicine). The nutrients you get from food are absorbed in the body more efficiently than the vitamins and minerals you'll find in a multivitamin. Adults who eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and fats each day shouldn't need to take any supplements.

That doesn't mean that it's a bad thing to take a multivitamin though. Some people have a hard time getting enough nutrients through food alone. There are many reasons this may be the case, whether you have a health condition or nutrient deficiency. The best way to make sure you're taking a supplement that will actually help you is to speak with your doctor about the product you have bought or intend to buy. They can go over the ingredient list and make sure there is nothing harmful inside of the bottle.