Can Men Use Women's Vitamins?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Tip

Men can use women's multivitamins if they choose formulas that are low in or free from the mineral iron. Increased iron stores may raise the risk of coronary heart disease.

Men's and Women's Vitamins

As with most things today, you have a lot of choices when it comes to vitamins. Supplement manufacturers now offer formulas for women, men and older adults. These claim to provide amounts of nutrients that offer special benefits for each gender and age group.

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The one-a-day men's formula of one major brand of multivitamin provides more of most vitamin and minerals than the women's multivitamin. It's especially high in the mineral selenium, and it contains the antioxidant nutrient lycopene which may help protect against prostate cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.

RDAs for Men and Women

Having separate multivitamin formulas for men and women makes sense, since the recommended dietary intakes for many vitamins and minerals are different. Besides needing less folate and iron, men need more of many vitamins and minerals.

What's a Man to Do?

If you need a multivitamin, your best bet is just to pop out to the store and pick up some vitamins made just for you. But if you decide to take a women's multivitamin, make sure it doesn't contain more iron than you need. Not all women's supplements contain the entire RDA for the mineral.

However, keep in mind that even if the vitamin is lower in iron than the RDA for women, it may still have too much iron for you. If you eat a lot of iron already in your diet, you can easily go overboard.

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This is especially true if you eat a lot of red meat, which can contain up to 4 milligrams of iron per 2.5-ounce portion, according to the Dietitians of Canada. Duck meat contains even more, with up to 7.5 milligrams of iron in 2.5 ounces. Organ meats are the richest source of dietary iron with as much as 10 milligrams in 2.5 ounces.

The type of iron found in animal foods is called heme iron, which is absorbed more easily than the iron in plant foods. Even though some plant foods are high in iron — lentils have up to 5 milligrams per three-fourths cup cooked — the iron isn't as readily available because your body has to convert it into a form it can use.

Do You Need a Multivitamin?

The truth is, you may not need to worry so much whether a women's multivitamin is OK to take. Many experts say there's really no benefit to popping a daily pill, and research shows that multivitamins don't live up to the hype that they can help prevent disease.

In light of this, improving your diet is likely a better bet than stealing your girlfriend's vitamins. People think of multivitamins as a sort of "nutritional insurance," but they can't make up for a healthy diet. While women of childbearing age may need supplemental folic acid, most people can get all the nutrition they need simply by eating a variety of healthy foods.

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Instead of spending money on supplements, people are better off investing in nutrient-rich, high-quality foods, including:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, organic if possible
  • Hormone-free, grass-fed beef and dairy
  • Hormone-free, cage-free poultry and eggs
  • Fresh fish and seafood
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts, seeds and beans
  • Healthy sources of fat such as olive oil and avocado

Eating three meals a day and avoiding non-nutritive junk foods that crowd out healthier foods increases the likelihood of meeting your daily nutrient requirements.

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