This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements: Safe Insurance for Micronutrient Gaps

By Michael McBurney

The most commonly used dietary supplement is a multivitamin-mineral (MVMM) supplement. In 2011 survey,  the Council of Responsible Nutrition (CRN) reports the most commonly used dietary supplement is a multivitamin-mineral supplement (Dickinson et al, 2014). Consumers use MVMM supplements primarily: 1) for overall health and wellness and 2) to fill nutrient gaps.

Multivitamin-mineral supplements are an important source of nutrients for many. While we may dream of eating garden-fresh fruit and vegetables with eggs, meat and fresh, unprocessed milk from a local farmer, i.e. foods that are not enriched or fortified, it is difficult to make (or afford) wise choices to meet essential micronutrient requirements. History tells us that fortification subdued deficiency diseases. Nationally representative data (2003-2006) from 16,110 residents of the USA ≥2y of age finds that most people do not consume recommended amounts of vitamins A, C, D, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6, and B12) and iron unless they eat processed foods which have been enriched or fortified foods. Nutrient intakes improve when people  supplement but many nutrient gaps still remain, primarily vitamins A, C, D, E, and potassium.

Health professionals fret that promoting dietary supplements may give people a pass to eat less nutritious foods and lead to excessive nutrient intakes. While too much of a micronutrient isn’t good neither is an inadequate nutrient intake and suboptimal micronutrient status. Recognizing that MVMM are the most common supplement choice, Wallace and colleagues assessed the contribution of MVMM to nutrient intakes by examining data collected between 2007 and 2010 from 16,444 residents of the USA . They report that 51% of Americans consume MVMM supplements containing ≥9 micronutrients at 100% of the RDA. Large proportions of the population were not consuming recommended amounts of micronutrients from food choices. Using a MVMM supplement helped people meet more of their vitamin and mineral needs. Regular/daily users of MVMM products had the highest nutrient intakes. In other words, people who aren’t using multivitamin-mineral supplements should be. They would benefit the most from taking a MVMM.

In the most vulnerable population, young children with the smallest body weight, fewer than 5% exceeded the Upper Level (UL) – a number representing an average daily intake without the possibility of causing adverse effects in most people.   Multivitamin-mineral supplements are safe. Even among 4 year olds.

These studies demonstrate that people shouldn’t be warned against using multivitamin-mineral supplements. Rather, people should be encouraged to begin using MVMM supplements.  Don’t worry about excessive nutrient intake from a multivitamin-mineral supplement. Health professionals need to recognize the situation as it exists. 9.5% of women are iron deficient. 8% could have rickets because of vitamin D deficiency. 6% of the population have vitamin C levels so low they could have scurvy. As Jim Hamilton, DSM Nutritional Products said last week at #NutritionSDG, “Nutrition is a matter of life and death when you don’t have it.”

A multivitamin-mineral supplement is practical, safe insurance to help ensure nutritional adequacy and health.

Main Citations

Dickinson A, Blatman J, El-Dash N, Franco JC. Common usage and reasons for using dietary supplements: Report of a series of surveys. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.875423

Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni III VL. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-1010. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.846806

Other Citation

Fulgoni III 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