Why men, women and kids need different multivitamins
While it may be tempting to buy a multivitamin that the whole family can share, doing so could mean nobody ends up gets a supplement that’s tailored to their needs. Here we explain why men, women and children have different nutritional requirements and what you need to look out for when shopping for a multi.
It stands to reason that men, women and children have different nutritional needs. After all, our bodies are different, and our diets and lifestyles tend to be too. So, when it comes to shopping for multivitamins for the whole family, there are different issues you need to take into account when deciding which formula to choose. Here are some of the most important.
1. Women are more likely to feel run off their feet
While both men and women lead busy lives, research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that women are particularly prone to feeling that they’re constantly short of time1 – especially if they’re juggling parenthood with full- or part-time work.
Although many women treat it as normal, that never-ending feeling of being stretched too thin is a form of stress that may affect your daily habits and lifestyle.
For example, women whose lives are busy or demanding are often prone to skipping meals and eating on the run – habits that may lead to missing out on some vitamins and minerals.2 These eating patterns aren’t ideal when you’re under pressure, because stress may increase your requirements for some nutrients, which may further use up your vitamin and mineral stores.3
For that reason, the foundations of any women’s multivitamin and mineral formula should include B-group vitamins and vitamin C.3
Vitamins B5 and C are particularly important here, as they play a vital role in supporting healthy adrenal gland function, which in turn is responsible for producing hormones that maintain a healthy stress response.3
Top tip: Look for a women’s multi that also contains American ginseng, which has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to relieve insomnia.4
2. Many Australian men are low in zinc
ABS dietary surveys indicate that many Australian men don’t obtain the recommended quantity of zinc from their daily diets, especially as they get older.5
Zinc is an important mineral to include in the diet, as it’s required for a vast number of physiological functions, including immune health, tissue repair, skin health and reproductive health.6 Ensuring there is enough zinc in the diet even helps to maintain healthy hair.7
That makes zinc an essential inclusion in a men’s multivitamin and mineral formula.
Top tip: When shopping for a men’s multi for yourself or a partner, look for a formula containing zinc glycinate, which is a form more readily absorbed by the body than some other forms of zinc (such as zinc sulfate).
3. Men and women’s reproductive health needs are different
For men, zinc is an important nutrient that’s required for healthy reproductive physiology and function, as well as prostate health.8 Selenium is another vital mineral for men, as it helps with healthy sperm production.9
For women, a multivitamin that contains the herb shatavari may be of benefit as this herb is traditionally used as a female rejuvenative tonic to promote physical and mental wellbeing in Ayurvedic medicine. Shatavari is also traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to help regulate a healthy menstrual cycle and as an aphrodisiac.10
Top tip: For men, look out for Korean ginseng, which is traditionally to maintain a healthy libido and sexual performance in Western herbal medicine.11 Also consider a multi that contains the herb withania, which is traditionally used to support normal male reproductive physiology and sexual function in Ayurvedic medicine.12
4. Women need more iron than men
Many Australian women don’t get enough iron in their diets, according to the ABS.1 This is important, as women need more iron than men.13
Women who are menstruating may also need more iron in the days after their period. Iron is important for maintaining healthy blood production and supports energy levels in the body.13
Top tip: Iron glycinate (also known as iron (II) glycinate), is more readily absorbed than some other forms of iron, like iron sulfate. So, look out for a women’s multi which contains this form of iron.
5. Support for heart health
Although both men and women need a healthy diet and lifestyle to support their heart and cardiovascular system health, Australian men may need additional support in this area, according to the Heart Foundation.14
Vitamin E in particular is an important nutrient to look out for in a men’s multivitamin for help in supporting heart health.15
Top tip: Eat plentiful fruits, vegetables and wholegrains high in vitamins and minerals for extra heart health support.
6. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to conceive need extra nutritional support
Different nutrients are required for women who are planning to conceive, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.
For example, folate (folic acid) is very important for both conception and a healthy pregnancy as it helps with normal foetal development.16 Look for a multi that contains activated folic acid (folate), because folic acid needs to be processed by the body to activated folic acid before it can be used, and this process may be compromised in people with certain genetic profiles, including up to 50% of people from Caucasian and Asian backgrounds.17
Vitamin D is another nutrient to consider which is also helpful for building healthy bones, and supporting a healthy pregnancy if you aren’t getting enough from your diet.18
Top tip: Look for a multivitamin formula designed specifically for the health needs of women for preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
7. Children have specific nutritional needs
A healthy, balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is vital for supporting the healthy growth and development of children. However, extra nutritional support can be helpful including key nutrients such as iodine, iron and vitamins A, D3 and K2.
Iodine is a trace mineral involved in supporting normal, healthy growth and development. It can be found in seafood, seaweed, fortified commercial bread and salt as well as some vegetables. However, the amount of iodine in some Australian soils is considered iodine deficient.19
Iron is another important mineral for children. It supports healthy cognitive development in children. Foods rich in the well-absorbed haem form of iron include meat and eggs, while green leafy vegetables such as spinach contain high amounts of the non-haem form of iron, which is harder for the body to absorb.
Vitamins A and D help with the all-important bone building and supporting healthy teeth in children aged between 2 and 12 years old.
Top tip: When searching for a multivitamin for the kids, look out for one that contains a broad array of nutritionals including vitamins, minerals, bioflavonoids and lutein as well as having no added sugar or artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.
Which multivitamin is suitable for you?
- Men’s Multi Advanced: to help support men’s health and wellbeing. With zinc and Korean ginseng
- Women’s Multi Advanced: to support women’s health. With B vitamins, vitamin C and iron as well as shatavari, used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for female reproductive health
- Mum-to-be-Multi: for mother’s wellbeing before, during and after pregnancy with activated folic acid and vitamin D
- Kids’ Nutrient Ninja: A great-tasting multivitamin for growing children with delicious vanilla-berry flavour and no added sugar
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014. Viewed 1 Oct 2019, abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4159.0
2. Pendergast et al. Nutr J. 2019;18(1):24.
3. Singh et al. J Nutr Food Sci 2016;6:4
4. Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Eastland Press, Seattle, 1993.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Australian health survey: usual nutrient intakes 2011-12. Commonwealth of Australia, 2015.
6. Ho E. Zinc. Linus Pauling Institute 2019. Viewed 2 Oct 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
7. Park H, et al. Ann Dermatol. 2009;21(2):142-146.
8. Fallah A, et al. J Reprod Infertil 2018;19(2): 69-81.
9. Tsuji PA. Selenium. Linus Pauling Institute 2015. Viewed 2 Oct 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/selenium
10. Pandey AK, et al. Biomed Pharmacother 2018;103:46-49.
11. Nocerino E. Fitoterapia 2000;71 Suppl 1:S1-5.
12. Azgomi RND, et al. Biomed Res Int 2018;2018:4076430.
13. Wessling-Resnick M. Linus Pauling Institute 2016. Viewed 2 Oct 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iron
14. Heart Foundation. Cardiovascular disease fact sheet. Viewed 2 Oct 2019, heartfoundation.org.au/about-us/what-we-do/heart-disease-in australia/cardiovascular-disease-fact-sheet
15. Rimm EB, et al. N Engl J Med 1993;328(20):1450-1456.
16. Pitkin RM. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85(1):285S-288S.
17. NSW Govt Health. About MTHFR – information for GPs. 2017: genetics.edu.au/health-professionals/mthfr-dna-test
18. Hollis BW, et al. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2017;453:113-130.
19. Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements, 3rd ed. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone, 2010. Kindle edition.