Vitamins Are Still Mostly Useless, Even When Personalized

The best explanation for why “personalized” products have thrived in recent years is that we love hearing stories about ourselves. I think astrology is a dumbass, but I still flip through a bunch of Sagittarius memes until I see one that tells me what I want to hear. Unsurprisingly, the trend has spread to vitamins as well.

As we noted with Personalized Protein Powder , all personalization is about collecting data and selling you a base product that you could get elsewhere for less. But to get you to take a test and pay extra for a product, the company must convince you that it is just for you . One vitamin company ran an ad highlighting how confusing a series of vitamins can be, like we’re all just trying to make the basics to be healthy and need someone to hold our hand to solve the incredibly convoluted puzzle of how what vitamins do we need.

The call is real, but the main idea is bullshit. Vitamin supplements are somewhere between mostly useless and completely useless . If you regularly eat fruits, vegetables and animal products, then you almost certainly have everything you need. There are a few exceptions, and they’re not entirely secret: Vegans generally need a B12 supplement. People who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should get extra folate, usually by grabbing a bottle of prenatal vitamins at the grocery store. (There are a few nutrients that experts disagree on; maybe we all need vitamin D supplements, or maybe we’re fine .)

As the National Institutes of Health notes on its supplement page, almost anyone can get the vitamins they need from food, and your time and money is better spent on improving your diet than buying pills, even if it’s a clever algorithm that picks the pills for you. Remember, they’ll just give you what you could buy from the store anyway, based on some very simple facts like your age and gender.

If you think you have a health problem that means you need something truly personalized, try this innovative idea: ask your doctor. Vitamin deficiency is uncommon, but it does exist and can be diagnosed by an appropriate healthcare professional. (By “fit,” I basically mean someone who doesn’t make a significant portion of their income from supplements, so don’t go to chiropractors with pill bottles on display in the waiting room.)

But if you’re thinking of buying vitamins – individual or not – just because the company promises to ship them to you in pretty packaging, remember that you will probably be fine without them.

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