Are there differences in nutrient supplements marketed for men and women?

By Elisha Aispuro, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Before I tackle this, you may be wondering do we really need supplements at all? Well… I’m here to tell you that an increasing number of health experts will tell you that they’re unnecessary and you’re better off saving your money for something else. Of course, there are a few exceptions, such as if you’re treating a specific deficiency, in which case it’s best to check in with your doctor and have the proper blood work done to determine your body’s specific needs based on your age, gender, and medical history. However, besides exceptions like the one mentioned, the majority of us don’t need the extra supplements as long as we intake a variety of different foods from within the food groups (grains, dairy, protein, fats, vegetables, and fruits). 

You may be thinking, what happens if you do decide to consume additional vitamins & minerals through supplements as a “just in case I may be deficient” type of thing? 

Consuming Excess Nutrients fromFound In Supplements

The most common thing to happen is your body will simply flush out the excess water-soluble vitamins and minerals. The biggestreal danger comes froman potentially come from consuming too many fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K). Our bodies tend to hold on to excess fat-soluble vitamins and this couldmay lead to vitamin toxicity and on rare occasions a vitamin overdose.

There are also scenarios in which supplements can interfere with other medications so be sure to tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking if you’re also taking prescribed medication.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s answer the reason you’re really here.

Differences in Nutrient Needs

The truth is that individuals who are biologically male and female do have different required levels when it comes to vitamins and minerals. While we all require the same types of nutrients, our specific age, sex, and medical history does affect the amounts we individually need.

For instance, the vitamins and minerals needed for women can vary immensely based on several categories such as if she’s pregnant, premenopausal, menopausal, and breastfeeding. Additionally, when a woman is on her period, she loses a significant amount of iron which needs to be replaced, so some women’s multi-vitamins may contain higher amounts of iron than men’s multi-vitamins. Typically, multi-vitamins formulated with a focus on female-specific nutrients need higher amounts of iron, folate, and calcium due to the reasons mentioned above.

Another example is that many multivitamins marketed towards men are composed of minerals and vitamins with a focus on supporting urinary and prostate health. These multivitamins contain nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B, Zinc, and an amino acid blend that may be higher in men’s rather than women’s multivitamins. 

Aside from these and a couple of other minor differences, there’s no significant difference in supplements marketed towards men and women. This is to say, if you accidentally pick up a women’s multivitamin instead of a men’s multivitamin, it won’t be the end of the world. However, minor differences can add up over time so you probably don’t want to buy a multivitamin not specific to you regularly. And, if you’re feeling confused by all of this, there’s a ton of multivitamin options that aren’t recommended for anyone in particular, so that can always be an option as well. These include known brands such as the Kirkland Signature Daily Multi and the Alive Max Potency Multivitamin.

One other thing, just because there’s a sex-specific label on your multivitamin doesn’t mean it will cover your unique nutrient needs, so it’s important to meet with your doctor and discuss what’s best for you if supplementation is needed.

I know this was a supplementation mouthful, but I hope this advice helps you feel less overwhelmed next time you walk by the multivitamin section at your local store.

Do you have any particular multivitamin brand you live by?

Let us know in the comments below!

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