What are the differences between Men’s and Women’s Multivitamins?
Good Morning Divas! Today we have a very informative article provided by LabDoor, an independent testing organization, on the difference between men’s and women’s multivitamins. Our family is striving to get healthier and taking multivitamins is one thing that our doctors have recommended. Many thanks to LabDoor for this informative article to assist us with our decision-making process.
Multivitamin supplement are often marketed towards specific age groups and designated genders, citing formulation differences and boasting gender-specific health claims. This begs the question—what are the actual differences between multivitamins marketed towards men and those marketed towards women? Is there a definitive benefit for women to take a women’s multivitamin? On the flip side–could taking a multivitamin indicated for the opposite sex cause more harm than good?
Here, we tackle these questions by first reviewing established standards for vitamin and mineral intake, highlighting where the biggest differences lie. Then we take a closer look at some of LabDoor’s top-ranked multivitamin supplement for men and women, assess their label claims, and try to find the ingredient discrepancies responsible for the products big health claims.
Recommended Vitamin & Mineral Intake: a Tale of Two Genders
Generally, higher levels of both vitamins and minerals are recommended to men, with few exceptions. Pregnant and lactating women are often recommended vitamin and mineral intake higher than both their non-pregnant/lactating counterparts and men. For these populations, specializes formulations (i.e. prenatal vitamins) exist.
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), vitamin A, C, K and several from the B-complex (including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and choline) recommendations are typically considerably higher for teenaged and adult males than for women of matching ages. Calcium recommendations were similar for men and women of all ages, with the exception of slightly higher doses recommended for women between the ages of 51-70. Magnesium, manganese, and zinc RDA’s were also higher for teenaged and adult males than for women of the same age. The only standout was iron, whose recommendations were significantly higher for women between the ages of 14 and 50 than they were for their identically-aged male counterparts. For women between 19 and 50 years of age, the recommendation stands at 18 mg/d, over twice the 8mg recommendation for men.
Read the Institute of Medicine’s macronutrient recommendations here.
How well do multivitamin supplements match the general pattern set by established intake standards? It should be expected that different manufacturers will have different gender-specific multivitamin formulations, and a detailed review of each of their differences is outside the scope of this article. For the sake of simplicity, we review how LabDoor’s top-ranking men’s and women’s multivitamin’s were formulated and discern their differences.
Rainbow Light’s Men’s and Women’s multivitamin performed well in LabDoor’s analysis, ranking as the 3rd and 4th best multivitamins for their respective genders. The largest claimed differences were noted in calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc content, with largely identical vitamin profiles. Their women’s product, Women’s One, contained significantly higher levels of calcium, magnesium than the men’s product (called Men’s One), which contained twice the amount of copper as the women’s product. Both products contained significant amounts of zinc, although the men’s product totaled twice the amount of the women’s product. The most notable difference was iron, which was deficient from the men’s product but present at 33% of the DV in the women’s product.
A second manufacturer, Garden of Life, saw its Men’s and Women’s products rank as the 2nd best products for their respective genders. These products, in contrast to the first two, had significant differences in vitamin content between the men’s and women’s supplements, with the largest formulation differences noted for vitamin D, thiamin, and folate. Among the minerals, zinc and iron content differences were largest. The women’s product claimed significantly higher levels of vitamin D, vitamin K, and folate, while the men’s vitamin contained larger amounts of thiamin and zinc. The most notable difference, again, was iron, which was present at 44% of its DV in the women’s product but was entirely absent from the men’s.
Results: A basic analysis of 4 multivitamin supplements (from two manufacturers, each producing one men’s and women’s product) concluded that vitamin and mineral profiles are generally variable, with only a few common threads. Zinc content tends to be higher and men’s products, which are also deficient in iron (a women’s supplement typically provides at least 30% of the nutrients’ DV). Note that the analysis here reviewed vitamin and mineral content; significant differences in other ingredients (i.e. herbal additions) were also noted.
The Bottom Line
A basic overview of top-ranking multivitamin supplements concluded that while there is variation in vitamin and mineral content in gender-specific supplements, the differences are typically small and tend to vary among manufacturers. Aside for higher levels of zinc in men’s supplements and the presence of iron in women’s multivitamin supplements, don’t expect much of a difference in health outcomes if you happen to take a multi marketed for the opposite sex.
*LabDoor is an independent testing organization that helps consumers research, find, and buy the best supplements. Learn more about LabDoor’s analysis of 75 best-selling multivitamins here: https://labdoor.com/rankings/multivitamins