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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements are Safe, Practical Way to Obtain Nutrients

By Michael McBurney

In the US, a supplement is taken orally and intended to “supplement the diet” with ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanical products, amino acids and substances such as metabolites. The Council for Responsible Nutrition reports that 68% of US adults report taking dietary supplements (50% report being regular users). The majority (>95%) use multivitamin-mineral supplements.  An overwhelming majority (83%) express confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements.

Most negative expert opinions on dietary supplements stem from safety concerns because of supplements adulterated with pharmaceutical compounds, i.e. substances that do not supplement the diet and are often promoted with exaggerated claims related to performance or weight loss. Substances which may be harmful should never be found in dietary supplements or foods.  Those  marketing products with ingredients which could be harmful should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Some health professionals worry that guidance to recommend dietary supplements will give people permission to continue poor dietary habits or may lead to excessive nutrient intakes in those with a nutritious diet. The reality, however, is that micronutrient intakes from diet alone are below recommendations in many countries for a significant proportion of the population. Research finds people using dietary supplements have a lower risk of inadequate micronutrient intakes.  

Although people may improve the quality of their diet as they age, many are still not making healthy choices. Dietary intakes of several nutrients - potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E - are below recommendations. Fruits and vegetables are rich in two shortfall nutrients: dietary fiber and potassium, as well as dietary fiber and potassium, as well as carotenoids, folate,  vitamin A and vitamin C but most do not eat enough servings daily.

As CRN found, consumers have reasons to be confident, especially in multivitamin and mineral supplements. A daily multivitamin-mineral supplement is a safe, practical way to increase vitamin and mineral intake.

Main Citation
2014 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. Oct 30, 2014 press release.

Other Citations

Harel Z, Harel S, Wald R, Mamdani M, Bell CM. The frequency and characteristics of dietary supplement recalls in the United States. 2013 JAMA Intern Med doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.379

Pot GK, Prynne CJ, Almoosawi S, Kuh D, Stephen AM and the NSHD scientific and data collection teams. Trends in food consumption over 30 years: evidence from a British birth cohort. 2014 Eur J Clin Nutr doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.223

Troesch B, Hoeft B, McBurney M, Eggersdorfer M, Weber P. Dietary surveys indicate vitamin intakes below recommendations are common in representative countries. 2012 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114512001808

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

Wallace TC, McBurney MI, Fulgoni VL. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.846806