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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Full Spectrum Multivitamin and Mineral Supplements: a Source of Essential Nutrients

By Michael McBurney

Twenty years ago, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), recognizing the role of dietary supplements in health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases. The law established a new regulatory framework and mechanisms to deal with safety issues, labeling, and health claims. It provided guidance on good manufacturing practices. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t guarantee funding for enforcement of DSHEA.

DSHEA defines dietary supplements as products that may contain a vitamin, mineral, herb (or other botanical), amino acid, or concentrate/metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination which is used to supplement the diet to increase total dietary intake. The objective is to provide nutritional support. The law prohibits illegal compounds and drugs. Adulteration of food products, including dietary supplements, by manufacturers is untenable. As a member company, the Council for Responsible Nutrition is applauded for its zero tolerance policy and calls for criminal enforcement against companies selling spiked products that put consumers at risk.

Unfortunately, full spectrum multivitamin-mineral supplements (MVS) are often maligned when the furor should be constrained to products with illegal ingredients (link to JAMA article). The reality is that many of us do not eat properly. Dietary surveys show that micronutrient intakes are below recommendations in many countries. Within the US, clinical measurements find vitamin and mineral deficiencies too prevalent. Eating fortified/enriched foods and using a multivitamin and mineral supplement significantly reduces the risk of micronutrient inadequacy.

Full spectrum MVS are safe, practical way to increase vitamin and mineral intake. They can be important contributors to nutritional adequacy. People who aren’t using MVS typically have a higher risk of nutrient inadequacy and could benefit the most from supplementation .

Full spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplements are a subset of dietary supplements.  MVS supplements are safe. They contain essential nutrients which support health. It is prudent to be wary of products with novelty ingredients and exaggerated claims, especially those with respect to weight loss, infectious agents (i.e. ebola) or diseases. Consumers should insist upon FDA enforcement of existing laws and penalization of those selling illegal or adulterated products.

Remember, Congress enacted DSHEA because essential nutrients found in full spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplements play an role in achieving nutritional adequacy and maintaining health.

Main Citation

Cohen PA, Maller G, DeSouza R, Neal-Kababick J. Presence of banned drugs in dietary supplements following FDA recalls. 2014 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.10308

Other Citations

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

Weaver CM, Dwyer J, Fulgoni III VL, King JC, Leveille GA, MacDonald RS, Ordovas J, Schnakenber D. Processed foods: contributions to nutrition. 2014 AJCN doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.089284

Shakur YA, Tarasuk V, Corey P, O’Connor DL. A comparison of micronutrient inadequacy and risk of high micronutrient intakes among vitamin and mineral supplement users and nonusers in Canada. 2012 J Nutr doi:10.3945/jn.111.149450

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