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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


If Only Everyone Lived in a Perfect World, Nutrition Would be Irrelevant

By Michael McBurney

Since Annals of Internal Medicine lifted their embargo at 5pm EST on Monday, headlines would have you discard your multivitamin supplements because they are useless and some say harmful. It is astonishing, and embarrassing as a scientist,  that findings from 3 intervention trials involving multivitamins are being extrapolated into a diatribe against the universe of dietary supplements. After all, dietary supplements come in many forms: multivitamins, single vitamins (often higher levels per serving), herbal products, and combinations. And the majority of people have not had a heart attack. And most people are not medical physicians (and certainly not male). These are important distinctions which qualify (limit) the interpretation and extrapolation of these studies.

I was going to write more to address the proliferation of misperceptions but stopped after reading the blog by Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications, Council for Responsible Nutrition.

You simply must read “In Life and Diets: Nothing is Perfect”. It is insightful. It is powerful.

However, as a nutritionist, it is my obligation (compulsion) to remind everyone that vitamins and minerals are essential. Many people do not consume a balanced diet; consequently vitamin and mineral intakes are often less than optimal.

More than 40% of US adults do not consume recommended levels of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, magnesium, calcium and potassium from their diet (Fulgoni et al, 2011).

More than 90% of Americans have inadequate levels of vitamin E in their diet and could benefit from a vitamin E supplement says Dr Maret Traber, Linus Pauling Institute

More than 90% of Americans are vitamin D insufficient (Ginde et al, 2009)

But enough facts. Listen to the interview on radio station WBEN with @elizabethsomer. A registered dietitian, Elizabeth Somer emphasizes the reality that most Americans have an inadequate intakes of some, if not many, nutrients. She discusses the importance of eating well. Choosing nutrient-rich foods. Being moderate in our choices. And the value of supplementing responsibly. As she says, you cannot pop pills and expect a miracle.

Multivitamins are supplements not substitutes. Despite negative headlines, multivitamin supplements are a safe way to augment your diet.


Guallar E, Stranges S, Mulrow C, Appel LJ, Miller ER. Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements. 2013 Ann Intern Med doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00011

Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? 2011 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142257

Ginde AA, Liu MC, Camargo Jr CA. Demographic differences and trends of vitamin D insufficiency in the US population, 1988-2004 2009 JAMA Intern Med doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.604