Which Australian multivitamin is best for Australian women? It’s hard to tell the difference when every bottle has the contents written in 2 point font!
We have selected six of the most popular women’s multivitamin manufacturers in Australia including Blackmore’s Women’s Vitality, Swisse Women’s Ultivite, Nature’s Own Mega Potency Women’s, Cenovis Women’s Multi , Centrum for Women and Microgenics Women’s Wellness.
There are substantial variances between brands, especially once you get beyond the core vitamin and mineral components, so it is well worth digging a little deeper to see what you’re getting for your money. There’s a lot of detail here but, if you’re in a hurry, you can just look at the tables and scroll to the final word section at the end.
Here is a snapshot of the vitamins in each of the brands (the minerals are in the next section).
It’s colour coded, so you can easily see at a glance that green means it meets the Australian Recommended Daily (RDI) intake, yellow means it does not, and red means there’s none at all.
What stands out, is that most of the brands are delivering solidly for the B and C group vitamins. These are both water soluble in the body so there is less of an issue if you take in more than you need – you’ll just have expensively yellow pee!
Note that more is not always better, given that some vitamins accumulate in the body and can become toxic with oversupply.
Vitamin A can be a bit confusing because some brands have vitamin A, some have beta-carotene (which the body converts easily into vitamin A) and some have both. The main thing you need to take away here is that all of these brands have enough vitamin A or beta carotene to fully meet the Australian Women’s RDI of 900 mcg.
All of the brands also exceed the Australian women’s RDI for Vitamin B2, B3, B5, B7, B9 and B12. One caveat is niacin (B3) which can cause temporary (and harmless) skin flushing in doses higher than 50mg. Swisse, Nature’s Own, Microgenics and Blackmores all have 50mg which, on its own, will probably not be a concern but if combined with foods high in B3, for example chicken breast, vegemite and many breakfast cereals, may present issues.
Note that Blackmores, Nature’s Own, Microgenics and Swisse are the only brands to include inositol (B8). Like several other B group vitamins, Inositol is good for energy, hair, skin and nails but is also helpful for mental health. A 2016 study showed significant improvements in patients with OCD, anxiety and depression albeit with doses of 12g, which is 480 times higher than the brands have included here.
Cenovis is the only brand not to include any thiamine (B1) which is vital for helping the body use carbohydrates for energy. Conversely, Cenovis does include 150mcg of Biotin (B7) which is six times the Australian RDI of 25mcg. Biotin is useful for hair, skin and nails as well as while pregnant and breastfeeding. While this is a much higher dose than the RDI, the upper limits for toxicity are more than twenty times higher than this, and as I mentioned above, excess B vitamins will generally be excreted easily through your urine.
All brands exceed the Australian women’s RDI for vitamin C and E. Swisse, Centrum, Microgenics and Nature’s Own all deliver more than triple the recommendation. Both C and E act as anti-oxidants in the body, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Cenovis and Centrum are the only brands to include vitamin K1, which is an important foundation for bone-building and ensuring that your blood clots if you are cut. In high doses vitamin K1 has been shown to be helpful in minimising period pain, by reducing spasms in the uterus. Cenovis includes the larger dose at 60% of women’s RDI.
Minerals are where we sort the wheat from the chaff. At a glance you can straight away see a sea of yellow – where the supplement does not meet the Australian Recommended daily intake, and only a few where it does. Still this does not necessarily mean more is better, especially if you’re eating a healthy diet with plenty of leafy green vegetables.
Boron is a surprisingly underrated trace mineral given the important role it has in the body. While it is not defined as an essential mineral , it helps your body absorb other minerals more effectively, helps with mental function as well as reducing period pain. While there is not an RDI established for Boron, dosage for period pain has been suggested at 10mg per day for two days before menstruation and for three days after. Nature’s Own, Microgenics and Cenovis are the only brands to include Boron, but at relatively small concentrations of 1mg. Boron can be toxic in larger amounts of greater than 20mg per day, so be sure to talk with your doctor before supplementing.
Given the prevalence of osteoporosis in older women, and the importance in maintaining healthy bones from a young age, it is disappointing that none of the brands include much calcium in their multivitamin range. The Australian RDI for women is 1000mg a day rising to 1300mg for women over 50 years of age. Centrum delivers by far the largest amount with 400mg, with Swisse and Blackmores at 42mg and 50mg respectively.
Chromium is a trace mineral that has an RDI of 25mcg for Australian women. Chromium has been can assist with a range of bodily processes including insulin control but studies have been inconclusive as to whether it can genuinely assist with diabetes. Blackmores, Microgenics and Cenovis all exceed the Australian RDI. Swisse has a much smaller amount of just 6mcg, while Blackmores and Centrum do not contain any at all.
Copper plays an important role in the production of energy and has an RDI of 1200mcg for Australian women (higher for women who pregnant or lactating). Blackmores, Nature’s Own, Cenovis and Centrum all include at least 50% of the RDI for Copper in their multi (as high as 83% with Cenovis). Swisse has just 5% of the RDI in their Women’s Ultivite tablet.
Back in 2009, the Australian government introduced mandatory iodine fortification of baked breads, so if you eat a lot of bread, you’re unlikely to have an issue. Iodine deficiency is associated with an enlarged thyroid gland, dry skin, fatigue and hair loss. The RDI for women is 150mcg, and both Cenovis and Centrum provide the full 100% of this in their multis. Microgenics is a bit less at 100mcg. Nature’s Own and Swisse include about a third of the RDI, but if you have a couple of slices of bread for your toast in the mornings you’ll end up getting the right amount.
For Iron, women under fifty have an RDI of 8mg a day dropping to 5mg after the cessation of menstruation. All of the brands we reviewed had at least 63% of the RDI for iron included, rising to 88% with Centrum. Iron deficiency can leave you with anaemia, which manifests as a lack of energy and breathlessness on exertion. Iron deficiency is not something you should self-diagnose as overdosing can be quite dangerous. Talk to your doctor if you feel this may be a concern.
Magnesium is generally readily absorbed from a diet rich in green vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes and seafood, however it can be adversely affected by the consumption of too much fibre. Given its importance as a co-factor in hundreds of different chemical processes in the body it is good that all brands include around 20% of the RDI for women.
Manganese is another mineral that helps to build strong and healthy bones, as well as being an anti-oxidant. Centrum packs in 100% of the 5mg RDI while the other brands are all much less. Spinach, sweet potato, tofu and rice are just a few of the foods that will help you get to your full quota if your multi doesn’t provide all of it.
Potassium is an essential mineral that functions as an electrolyte in the body, helping to regulate nerve signals, muscles as well as fluid balance. For women in Australia the RDI is 2800mg a day (3200mg for women who are lactating). A large tomato will provide approximately 400mg, 100g of spinach or a cup of yoghurt will give about 550mg. Nature’s Own and Swisse both deliver a very respectable 70% of the RDI. Blackmores has just 5% while Cenovis and Centrum have none.
Selenium is important for the thyroid, as an anti-oxidant and may help fight against certain cancers. The RDI for Australian women is 60mcg with Centrum delivering 92% of that and the others around 42%. Remember that a single brazil nut can provide more than double your RDI with other sources including yellowfin tuna and other seafood, ham and eggs. Be mindful of keeping yourself well below the daily upper limit which is around 400mcg.
Zinc helps your body fight off bacteria and viruses, as well as helping the immune system and regulating the thyroid. Microgenics, Blackmores, Nature’s Own and Centrum all meet the 8mcg per day RDI while Cenovis and Swisse are a little lower. Eating meat, shellfish, legumes or green vegetables will ensure you have sufficient zinc in your diet.
Beyond the core vitamins and minerals, Swisse and Nature’s Own duke it out for ownership of the polyphenols and herb extracts with both of them listing everything from globe artichoke to grape seed, from hawthorn, licorice and ginseng to fennel and citrus bioflavonoids.
Many of these items may provide genuine value, others…not so much. For example most studies on CoQ10 are around 100 – 200mg, so when you see a brand with 1mg….well that’s just marketing, folks. If you want we can sell you some Unicorn tears…they have magical healing properties too!
The Final Word
Blackmore’s, Microgenics, Nature’s Own, Swisse and Centrum all score 8 out of 10 for delivery of vitamins against RDI requirements for women. Cenovis falls a little behind with no B1.
None of the brands score as well in the minerals area with Centrum the only brand coming in at higher than 6 out of 10. That said, there is much to be said for just supplementing on minerals when you are likely to consume much of these in your daily diet anyway (and more isn’t always best!)
While Swisse and Nature’s Own have a vastly larger array of extracts in their tablets, the doses are generally well below the therapeutic level, and do not have an actual RDI. For this reason we have not included these in our final analysis.
All of the brands we reviewed are good but none of them are perfect. That said, vitamins should be seen literally as supplements to a healthy diet, not a replacement for it.
Our recommendation would be to run with Centrum for Women as the brand that is most complete in delivery of essential vitamins and minerals. You will still need to aim to boost potassium, chromium and vitamin K through dietary sources.
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